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Molokai group urges local fisheries management

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WAILUKU, Hawaii » Tension between Molokai residents and outside fishermen is all the more reason for the island to adopt a local fisheries management plan, a Molokai community group said.

Hui Malama o Moomomi has tried for two decades to have waters up to 1 mile off Molokai’s northwest coast — from Ilio Point on the west to Kaholaiki Bay on the east — designated a community-based subsistence management area.

Limiting catch to two fish per day, for example, would deter off-island fishermen from spending the effort and fuel to travel to Molokai waters, group founder Uncle Kelson "Mac" Poepoe told The Maui News.

Molokai residents would need to abide by the catch limit as well.

Poepoe sees community-based management as an alternative to more extreme measures.

Four Molokai men were arrested last month for allegedly boarding an Oahu fishing boat and harassing the men on board. Despite the arrests, some Friendly Isle residents praised the men as "heroes" protecting a subsistence lifestyle unique to the island.

But Poepoe argues protecting the island’s resources starts from within.

Fish populations off Moomomi have been declining over the last decade even though very few off-island fishermen visit the area, he said.

"It’s not just outside people, it’s our people, too," said Poepoe, a Vietnam veteran and retired firefighter.

The state enacted legislation enabling communities to manage resources in their region more than two decades ago. But the first community-based subsistence area wasn’t recognized until October when the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the designation for Haena on Kauai.

Poepoe submitted a 31-page draft management plan for northwest Molokai waters to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in 2013.

The proposed rules would prohibit the taking of male uhu and limit the taking of female uhu to two per party, per trip, during the months of July through March from Nihoa to Ilio Point. They would also prohibit the taking of any uhu during the annual April to June spawning period.

Hui Malama o Moomomi has held public meetings on the proposed rules. The department spokeswoman Deborah Ward said the department will review the group’s final proposed rule package when it is submitted.

More than 15 other Hawaii communities have requested information about community-based subsistence management but haven’t determined whether they want to pursue such a designation, Ward said.

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