Hawaiian Caucus Urges No Fishing Zone Around Niʻihau
By Wendy Osher
Members of the Senate’s Hawaiian Caucus today urged the state to implement rules to establish a “no fishing zone” around the privately-owned Island of Niʻihau.
The recommendation to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources was announced during a press conference this morning, and is intended for all people other than the small resident population on Niʻihau.
Senator J. Kalani English of Maui, who is a member of the Hawaiian Caucus said he supports the proposed “no fishing zone” as a way to advance the lifestyle and culture of the island.
“The people have a very special subsistence economy there that does not exist anywhere else in Hawaiʻi,” Senator English told Maui Now.
“I hope that by protecting their fishing rights we will help to restore balance to their island,” he said.
Supporters of the proposed rule say that unlike other populated islands in Hawaiʻi, Niʻihau does not have a commercial store where food can be purchased. “As such, the near shore reef fishery serves as their predominant source of food,” caucus members said in the announcement.
Among those in attendance at the press conference were two owners of Niʻihau–Bruce and Leiana Robinson, as well as eight other Niʻihau residents, and members of the Hawaiian Caucus of the Senate, including: Senators Clayton Hee, Michelle Kidani, Brickwood Galuteria, J. Kalani English, Gilbert Kahele and Leomalama Solomon.
Some of the members reportedly traveled to Niʻihau in September to listen to pleas from island residents.
“With the fisheries of Kauaʻi Island becoming more depleted as the population has grown, accompanied by a disregard for taking care of the near shore fisheries, more and more people have been going to Niʻihau at greater frequency taking food sources that the native population of Niʻihau is totally dependent on,” caucus members said in the announcement.
“There is no question that unless the government takes dramatic proactive steps to reserve the near shore fisheries for the island population their survival going forward is in jeopardy,” said caucus member Clayton Hee.
The Senate caucus, in consultation with the Hawaiian Affairs Committee of the House, announced that it intends to introduce legislation to establish the “no fishing zone” law for Niʻihau. In addition, the announcement stated that DLNR is currently analyzing a series of administrative rules to, “strike a balance between the protection of Ni‘ihau residents and offshore opportunities.”