Many years ago, Presley Wann would accompany his uncle as he went fishing along the north shore of Kaua’i, Hawaii. He watched his uncle dive for lobster, catch kala with his handmade net and hand-pry limpets from the rocks. By early morning, Wann’s uncle caught enough food to host a family feast. Since then, times have changed.
Now, multi-million-dollar vacation homes line the coast and hundreds of thousands of visitors annually swim and snorkel through the waters. The values of real estate in the area is so high that the people who once lived there can no longer afford to do so. The farmers and fishermen who used to live there and protect the natural resources are now stuck on the outside looking in.
And as the local families moved out, the fishing practices also changed.
Wann is now the president of the non-profit organization, Hui Makaʻāinana o Makana, which translates to “people of the Makana.”
As Wann notes, “I witnessed people from outside the community doing stuff like setting lobster nets before the opening of lobster season. I witnessed people taking big bags of limu [seaweed] that you know [are] not for home consumption. I’d hear stories about my cousins getting into confrontations with guys on the reef who were taking too much.”
Scientists believe that some types of fish found in Hawaii’s waters have declined by 90% over the past 50 years.
A few months ago, Hawaii’s Governor David Ige finally signed into law the first-ever Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) regulations in Hawaii for Hā‘ena.
In crafting the rules, Wann’s organization and the government took into account input from elders and fish populations surveys. The new rules prohibit commercial fishing, provide restrictions on the types of fishing gear and methods that are allowed and set bag limits for various marine life. While the state is still responsible for enforcing the rules, the community has now assumed a type of neighborhood-watch function, in addition to providing relevant education.
Wann notes that, the new fishing rules are “probably the closest thing to a living ahupua`a that I can think of in the state of Hawaii, where we have a say in what happens from mauka [mountain] to makai [ocean].”
After the lengthy process of rule-drafting, it took five governors to see the rules finally come to fruition. As Wann happily states, “Everybody’s welcome to fish here. But if you come, you have to fish like us.”