Voluntary management proposal draws fire

KOLOA — Everyone was on a different page Friday night at a meeting to gather input on the creation of a potential voluntary marine management area at Mahaulepu.

About 75 people showed up for the meeting held to gather public opinion on the idea of self-restricting certain activities in order to increase the health and prosperity of the ocean in the Mahaulepu area.

Many fishermen and community members expressed concern at the idea of restricting ocean activities in the area.

Why the specific area was chosen, what rules would be applied, and who has the knowledge and responsibility to enforce those rules were questions that rose out the discussion.

Another concern was that the creation of this voluntary marine management area would put more restrictions on locals and purposefully avoid any harsh rules on tourists and the industry they drive.

“Limiting fishing … for me, it’s about going out there and catching my own fish to put on my own table,” said Darrell Borrero, of Wailua. “I take my kids out there and teach them to fish and provide for themselves. There’s a problem when you’re making tourism more important than the locals.”

Kalasara Setaysha, with Kohola Leo and Gordon LaBedz, with Surfrider Kauai, hosted the meeting aimed at gathering community input.

“We want to be able to preserve the ocean for the next generation,” Setaysha said.

Not everyone agreed that the area’s abundance is in jeopardy, and not everyone agreed on which animals were most at risk.

“You guys all talk about the monk seals and you love the monk seals, but that’s what’s ruining the reef,” said John Miner, of Hanapepe. “They wreak havoc.”

Though there was worry about people who don’t know the area coming in and establishing rules for the voluntary management area, LaBedz assured everyone in attendance that they were in full control of the outcome.

“Nothing is going to happen unless you all agree that it will,” LaBedz said.

Gathering more information will be next step for Surfrider and Kohola Leo, as the two organizations take time to digest the comments they received at this initial meeting and formulate their next steps in the potential establishment of the voluntary marine management area.

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