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.

Effective marine management includes a suite of adaptive management approaches balancing sustainable use, restoration, and conservation measures such as community-based management, time and area closures for fisheries replenishment, reasonable laws to encourage sustainable fishing practices, and effective enforcement, combined with systematized monitoring to assess effectiveness. Approximately 3.4% of oceans are protected globally. As of January 2018, 6% of Hawai‘i’s marine waters are under effective 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. In response, Governor Ige announced the bold 2016 IUCN Legacy Commitment at the State level to effectively manage 30% of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters by 2030 (30x30).

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.

Table 1: Percentage of marine managed areas within state waters out to 3 nautical miles.


Conservation International along with partners across the state have developed 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. OHI provides valuable information on the status of our ocean and coastal resources to help inform decisions on geographic and thematic priorities for management.
Hawai‘i now and into the future by measuring the status of six goals: Food Provision (Offshore Fisheries, Nearshore Fisheries, and Mariculture), Coastal Protection, Biodiversity (Habitats and Species), Economies & Livelihoods, Sustainable Tourism, and Sense of Place.
Each goal was scored on a 0-100 scale, reflecting how close a coastal region is to reaching their targets for a healthy ocean. A score of 100 represents a healthy ocean that provides maximum benefits now and into the future.
The Main Hawaiian Islands received a score of 74, with Kauaʻi and Niʻihau having the highest regional Ocean Health Index score (76), followed by Maui Nui (72), Hawaiʻi (72), and Oʻahu (69). Ocean Livelihoods & Economies received the highest score, with Hawaiʻi’s ocean economy providing 16% of Hawaiʻi’s jobs and $18 billion annually in revenue. Goals that incorporated ocean and coastal habitat health or protection tended to score the lowest, highlighting the need to protect or restore these habitats. These goals are Biodiversity, Coastal Protection, and Sustainable Tourism. Protecting and restoring these habitats is essential to sustaining our community and economy now and into the future. To learn more visit An Ocean Health Index for Hawai‘i.
Figure 2: Regional scores varied across counties and are based on regional differences in the local economic, social, and ecological indicators that underpin the index. Maui Nui had the highest regional Ocean Health Index score (79), followed by Kauaʻi and Niʻihau (76), Hawaiʻi (72), and Oʻahu (69). Source: 2018 Ocean Health Index Report
Below is a table illustrating the OHI score for each island in the various categories of Nearshore Fisheries, Offshore Fisheries, Mariculture, Habitats, Species, Livelihoods, Economies, Sense of Place, Sustainable Tourism, and Coastal Protection.


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 2016 Hawai‘i had a total of 38 brown water advisory days.

Figure 3: 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.

Learn More and Make a Difference

What You Can Do

  1. Attend a beach clean up! Events available here: Sustainable Coastlines Hawai'i,  808 Cleanups, and Surfrider Foundation
  2. Tips on protecting our marine environment from the DNR
  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 on-going 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. Department of Aquatic Resources (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