Native Hawaiian access and gathering rights are protected by state laws and by the State of Hawai‘i constitution. These laws also require all state and county agencies to affirmatively protect and enforce these rights. The Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i, Article XII, Section 7, “Traditional and Customary Rights,” protects certain rights to shoreline access. Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapters 1-1 and 7-1 protect public access that has been fixed by Hawaiian judicial precedent or established by Hawaiian usage, including Native Hawaiian gathering rights. HRS Section 46-6.5 states that the counties, in the subdivision process, must ensure public access to land below the high-watermark on any coastal shoreline. When this statute is not applicable, HRS Section 115-2 requires counties to acquire public rights-of way. Food is still traditionally gathered on the shoreline and in the water. The shoreline contains pa‘akai (salt) and limu (seaweed). In addition, the shoreline and ocean are used for religious and spiritual ceremonies.
Hawaiians built rock-walled enclosures in near shore waters to raise fish, an integral part of the ahupuaʻa. Fish entered through a wooden gate or sluice in the stone wall on the seaward side and as they grew, they became too large to return to the open ocean. In ancient Hawai‘i, it was estimated that there were 488 fishponds statewide, and more than 75 fishponds were in production on Molokaʻi alone. Yet the fishponds went out of use, became contaminated, and most disappeared.
Benchmark - Where we are now
- Fishponds –A revival of fishponds has occurred in recent years, and thirteen have been restored to some level. Six are in use, including three on Molokaʻi, one on Maui (Aoʻao Na Loko Iʻa o Maui at Koʻieʻie Fishpond), one on Hawaiʻi Island, and one on Oʻahu (Heʻeia). Project Loko Iʻa at the Keawanui fishpond on Molokaʻi provides learning and demonstration lessons. Restoration is very labor intensive and difficult work.
- In 2012, the State Legislature passed Senate Resolution No. 86, urging the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Department of Health (DOH), and Office of Planning (OP) to streamline the permitting process for the restoration of Hawaiian fishponds.
- OP, through its Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, developed a General Concurrence for fishpond restoration activities under Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) federal consistency regulations. The federal approval process through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been approved.
- The Koʻolauloa Watershed Management Plan estimates a restoration cost of $100,000 and annual management costs of $30,000-40,000 for each fishpond within the Koʻolauloa district of O‘ahu.
- NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) is coordinating an effort to streamline permitting of fishpond restoration through a State Programmatic General Permit working with DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL), United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the National Marine Sanctuary.
- On the island of Lāna‘i, a group of community members has begun the Lāna‘i Limu Restoration Project with support of NOAA.
Target - Where we would like to be
- Involved agencies work to support restoration of fishponds with an eye towards increasing fish stocks and opportunities for gathering.
- Community groups and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) collaborate to restore fishponds by streamlining the permitting process, providing technical assistance, and providing guidance on best practices.
- The streamlined permitting process for fish pond restoration is complete.
- Shoreline and coastal access for Native Hawaiian gathering is protected.