Marine Managed Areas

By 2030, significantly increase the percentage of Hawai‘i’s marine waters under active management.

As an island archipelago, Hawai‘i is particularly dependent on a healthy marine ecosystem. Protecting this precious resource through marine management is critical to sustaining livelihoods, protecting biodiversity, and preventing economic loss. Fishing and tourism are at the heart of Hawai‘i’s coastal economy, so ensuring that these industries are managed sustainably is crucial to the vitality of Hawai‘i’s oceans and to ensure that future generations continue to benefit from these resources.

Active marine management is defined as a protective designation that limits marine use and protects more than one species within the designated area. Approximately 3.4% of oceans are protected globally. As of January 2016, 13.1% of Hawai‘i’s marine waters are under active management. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Parks Congress Report (Sydney, 2014), scientists recommend at least 30% of the world’s oceans be designated as marine parks. Currently, there isn’t a similar target identified specifically for the state of Hawai‘i.

Figure 1: Highlights marine managed designations in the main 8 Hawaiian Islands*

*The geographic focus of this goal is the main Hawaiian Islands. However, one of the largest protected areas in the world is Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

From restricted fishing areas to community based management, there are a wide range of established designated marine areas in Hawaii (Figure 1). A highlight of these designated areas is the community-based subsistence fishing areas (CBSFA) for Haena on North Shore, Kaua‘i. This community-based designated area has established prohibited activities that are now listed in the Hawaii Administrative Rules. CBSFA designation reinforces the Hawaiian values of aloha aina, which emphasizes the connection between the environment and communities. If you care for the land, the land will care for you. (DAR 2014).

Marine waters under active management is a good high level indicator, but other factors such as ocean water quality, marine economy, and ocean health are also needed to represent how we are doing. The following outlines the status of these factors.


The activities along the shoreline contribute directly to the quality of the marine environment. Coastal waters may become polluted from flood waters and storm water runoff that could contain any combination of matter from overflowing cesspools, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, chemicals, and associated flood debris (DOH). Polluted waters, which threaten human health, marine life, and have significant economic consequences, can be tracked by the number of days with brown water advisories. Brown water runoff can be reduced through natural resource management further defined in watershed management and freshwater security. In 2014 Hawai‘i had a total of 20 brown water advisory days.

Figure 2: Number of Brown Water Days

Source: Department of Health, Clean Water Branch


The ocean economy represents almost 20% of the total economy in Hawai‘i according to the Economics National Ocean Watch (ENOW), a report produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management that outlines six ocean dependent economic sectors annually. In 2013, the tourism and recreation sector consisted of 90% of employment in ocean dependent jobs. To track ocean economy metrics visit ENOW Explorer.


Conservation International along with partners across the state are working together on the Ocean Health Index (OHI) to measure the health of Hawai‘i’s ocean resources. Our oceans provide diverse benefits that are assessed through a combination of ten goals that span social, economic, and ecological metrics including food provision, artisanal fishing opportunities, carbon storage, coastal protection, livelihoods and economies, tourism and recreation, sense of place, clean waters, and biodiversity. Through our multiple partnerships, OHI is being adapted to provide valuable information on the status of our ocean and coastal resources to help inform decisions on geographic and thematic priorities for management.

Learn More and Make a Difference

What You Can Do

  1. Attend a beach clean up! Events available here or
  2. Tips on protecting our marine environment-
  3. Find sites to volunteer, intern, research, or learn with the Conservation Connections app-

More Information

  1. Explore the Ocean Health Index , a valuable tool for the ongoing assessment of ocean health -
  2. Learn more about marine species and habitats at the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources website-
  3. Learn about the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage as a traditional Polynesian canoe travels around the world’s oceans-
  4. Learn about Maui’s coral recovery plan-
  5. DAR fishing regulations for each county-
SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
SDG 14 - Life Below Water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
SDG 15 - Life on Land
Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals
Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development