Gov. Neil Abercrombie has announced a joint initiative between the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Conservation International (CI), and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation (HKL Castle) to increase enforcement that will help sustain Hawaii’s nearshore fisheries.
The initiative will create new Fisheries Enforcement Units, a priority program of DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), on Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.
“Hawaii’s ecological, economic, and cultural well-being depends on how well we ensure these valuable marine stocks are responsibly fished and managed,” Abercrombie said. “People all across our islands, no matter what their perspective, have told me repeatedly that the key to protecting our fisheries is effective enforcement of our laws. This wisdom is a cornerstone of the New Day plan for environmental sustainability.”
CI, an Arlington-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering communities to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the long term well-being of people, is supporting this initiative with a $2 million commitment and HKL Castle, a Kailua-based nonprofit whose mission includes restoring Hawaii’s nearshore marine life, will provide $400,000. The Abercrombie Administration is investing $1.1 million for DOCARE over the next two years.
“If we take care of the ocean, the ocean will take care of us,” said Terry George, executive vice president and chief operating officer of HKL Castle. “This public-private partnership will help secure a future for Hawaii marked by abundant fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.”
Healthy fisheries are important for local fishing communities. About 26 percent of households fish regularly, and majority of nearshore fishers are non-commercial, according to a 2006 University of Hawaii Social Sciences Research Institute study.
Unsustainable coastal development and pollution, along with a high volume of fishing activity, have led to the decline of 75 percent of Hawaii’s nearshore fish population.
DOCARE is the enforcement arm of DLNR, whose 94 conservation and resource enforcement officers statewide are responsible for all laws, rules and regulations that fall under the DLNR.
“Our management priority is to protect our state’s natural resources and to enforce existing rules and laws in place for that purpose,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. “We will now be able to create specialized units – initially on the neighbor islands — that will focus exclusively on fisheries enforcement. The result will be significant improvement in fisheries compliance, ultimately resulting in healthier fish stocks and increased seafood security for island residents.”
Each new Fisheries Enforcement Unit created as part of this initiative will consist of one supervisory captain, two field officers, one educational specialist and one administrative support position. The units will focus on fisheries laws and policies.
Each unit will have a boat, boat storage facilities close to ocean entry points, and necessary maintenance and fuel budgets to ensure adequate surveillance time on the water.
“Improved enforcement will benefit the majority of fishers that want to fish responsibly and sustainably,” said Melissa Bos, director of the Conservation International’s Hawaii Fish Trust Program. “Working along with the State of Hawaii and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, our goal is to ensure that local communities have access to sustainable and locally caught seafood for generations to come.”
“The establishment of Fisheries Enforcement Units is a historic and monumental step forward for the DLNR and Hawaii,” said Randy K. Awo, Acting DOCARE Enforcement Chief.