Wann, Alapa‘i accept Equator Prize in NYC

  • Kevin Chang / Special to The Garden Island

    The Equator Prize awards presented in New York included Kauai’s Presley Wann (center in blue shirt) and Keli’i Alapai (on his left) from Hui Makaʻainana o Makana and Kelson “Mac” Poepoe (on his right) from Hui Malama o Mo‘omomi at the summit. Other members of the delegation from Hawaii look on from the row behind.

As many Hawaiians await Gov. David Ige’s release of its Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Areas proposal for public hearings and input, representatives of that effort were recently in New York City to accept global recognition for their work.

The two Hawaiian community groups who shared the $10,000 Equator Prize awarded earlier this year by the UN Development Programme and its partners were well-represented at the awards ceremony on Tuesday.

The delegation comprised Kelson “Mac” Poepoe, founder of Hui Malama o Mo‘omomi on Moloka‘i, and his wife Kamalu; Presley Wann, president, Keli‘i Alapa‘i, vice president, and Emily Cadiz, program director, from Haena, of the Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana on Kauai.

“What we need is a political climate change,” Wann said.

This recognition on a global stage puts a spotlight on Ige’s stated goal of ensuring that “30% of nearshore marine areas will be effectively managed by 2030,” something that will not happen without the active support of rural communities and Native Hawaiian fishers, according to a press release.

The award comes during a year when the role of indigenous people and local communities in caring for their places and adapting to climate change is becoming a global imperative, the release said.

The winners were selected by a committee of experts who chose the winning initiatives based on assessments of their impact as it related to two or more sustainable-development goals. They also examined the level and quality of innovations, and the ways in which inequalities in income could be reduced through resilience, adaptability and self-sufficiency.

Hui Maka‘ainana o ‘Makana is a nonprofit formed by descendants of the traditional families of Haena, one of the most heavily impacted tourist spots on the island.

Led by Wann and Alapa‘i, the hui worked on an initiative to partner with the state to implement the first community-based subsistence fishing area rules that allow for communities and the state to co-manage nearshore ocean areas together. The marine resources of Haena feed local families, with the catch shared among community members.

The hui looks to the history, identity, meaning, ecology, values and people of a place to find solutions to community-identified challenges. It worked with local divers, fishers, kayak and scuba businesses, surfers and other ocean users and businesses to develop solutions to user conflicts.

Collaborations with scientists and researchers resulted in the documentation of the traditional knowledge of Haena fishers and elders. A pu‘uhonua (sanctuary) area was created, based on the traditional ecological knowledge, and sustainable fishing traditions of the community’s subsistence fishers. The hui partnered with the county and state parks to tend to the upkeep of family burials, sacred sites and historic lo‘i (taro fields).


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