More than 140 recreational fishers were in attendance at the first in a series of talk story events held Friday night on Maui.
The four hour talk story session focused on marine management and was hosted by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resource.
The meeting marks the start of a community engagement process, in which fishers are being asked to share their thoughts.
The goal of the “Holomua: 30X30 Marine Initiative” is to effectively manage 30% of near-shore coral reef ecosystems in Hawai‘i by 2030. Currently only 6% of the states near shore waters are designated as marine management areas (MMAs), which entails a high level of management.
A major emphasis of the talk story sessions is for marine managers and aquatic biologists to just listen to people and gather their thoughts and advice on possible management measures to achieve the 30% goal via a network of MMAs. Additional meetings are planned in Lahaina today, and a third on Sunday in Hāna.
“MMA’s and fishing are not mutually exclusive,” explained Luna Kekoa, DAR’s Recreational Fishing Program Manager. “In fact,” he says, “the better we can manage our nearshore waters, the better fishing will be.”
The 30X30 Marine Initiative was announced by Governor David Ige during the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Conference in Hawai’i. It was considered an ambitious approach to marine resources management. Years of planning since resulted in the trio of initial Maui talk stories.
“DAR is trying to take a different approach to the Holomua initiative by facilitating an inclusive, community driven process. We really want to learn from the Maui community about the issues affecting their near shore fisheries. We also are asking community members to nominate representatives of the community who can serve on a navigation team to develop goals and solutions to address those issues” said DAR Administrator Brian Neilson.
“We’re listening and learning,” said Kekoa. “These sessions were designed for us to take a back seat and to be led by those who are closest to the resources and have a vested interest in what happens to our marine resources now and long into the future.”
The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday talk stories on Maui are piloting future talk story sessions for rest of the state with the DAR team planning to tweak, as necessary, based on this weekend’s experience and feedback.
“We think everyone agrees, that effectively managing our marine resources, no matter what form that ultimately takes, is something fishers and other ocean users can get behind. How to get there is the trick, but we’re confident with this level of community engagement and knowledge, together we’ll get there,” Neilson said.
“This is a statewide initiative, but on each island it will be laid out to how that island is. One of the outcomes we’re hoping for is to form a navigation team made up of community members and fishers who know the resources and can be our guides as we create this network of MMA’s,” Kekoa said.
Holomua talk stories on other islands have not been scheduled. Neilson said, “Despite the 2030-time frame of the Holomua initiative, we’re committed to doing it right. This level of community and stakeholder engagement is critical to whatever happens in the future. We hope through this process we can find the middle ground and a good level of consensus that will help ensure a rich future for our natural resources, cultural practices, and a way of life for many of us in Hawai‘i.”