The owners of Niihau, its residents and Hawaii senators are urging state officials to enact a fishing ban around Niihau for all people other than the small Native Hawaiian population that lives there.

The reason? Kauai residents are increasingly trolling the nearby island’s coastal waters because Kauai’s own fisheries are being depleted, according to a press release from Sen. Clayton Hee’s office.

To this end, the Hawaiian Caucus of the Senate held a press conference Wednesday urging the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a “no fishing zone” around the island. Caucus members include senators Hee, Michelle Kidani, Brickwood Galuteria, Kalani English, Gilbert Kahele and Leomalama Solomon. 

Senators also intend to introduce a bill this legislative session that would ban non-resident fishing off Niihau.

“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,” Hee said in a statement.

Niihau is the only main Hawaiian island that doesn’t have grocery stores and residents depend on fish from the coastal waters for food.

Niihau, also known as the Forbidden Island, is owned by the Robinson family and home to about 130 Native Hawaiians. The Robinsons have worked to ensure that the island’s culture remains intact and unfettered by marks of the modern world. The island has no paved roads, cars, stores, restaurants, doctors, indoor plumbing, police or fire department, according to the Niihau Cultural Heritage Foundation

Hee’s office provided Civil Beat with the below videos shot by Niihau residents that show non-residents picking opihi and a fishing boat approaching the shore. 

“This is our opihi!” one resident can be heard saying to two men. “What makes you guys think you have the right to come here and take our food?”


Photo: Aerial view of Niihau.  (Wikimedia Commons: Christopher P. Becker, Polihale)

— Sophie Cocke