After years of discussion and planning, Milolii now has a community-based subsistence fishing area.

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The state land board formally adopted the designation on Thursday. The Hawaii Legislature approved moving forward with creation of the subsistence fishing area in Milolii in 2005. Lawmakers directed the Department of Land and Natural Resources to adopt management strategies and rules to put the fishery into effect.

State officials and community members have been working toward that ever since. Dozens testified in support of the fishery area’s creation in February with a few opposed.

Often called the “Last Fishing Village in Hawaii,” Milolii is located 33 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island’s leeward coast. The seaside village sits about five miles down a steep, windy road from Mamalahoa Highway. It’s one of the few places left in Hawaii where residents generally follow traditional Hawaiian fishing practices important for food security and cultural preservation.

Milolii fishing area
The state land board on Thursday approved a community-based subsistence fishing area in Moloii. Courtesy: DLNR

By designating the waters around Milolii as a community-based subsistence fishing area, the state is taking a significant step toward ensuring that the area will have abundant fish stocks well into the future, officials said Thursday.

The boundaries of the fishing area total 12.6 square miles to a depth of 100 fathoms, from Kipahoehoe to Kauna.

The new rules include size and bag limits for specific fish species, seasonal and gear restrictions, and a prohibition on commercial aquarium fishing, among other things.

Laila Kaupu sees it an an opportunity for the community to be heard. Courtesy: DLNR

“You can still harvest. Now you just need to be more pono, more righteous about it,” said William Mae-Huihui, a cultural practitioner from Milolii, in a state-produced video about the fishery.

The community-based subsistence fishery exemplifies interweaving of traditional and modern scientific knowledge, said Brian Neilson, head of the Division of Aquatic Resources, in a news release.

It will ensure long-term sustainability of fish and marine species and encourage scientific study and understanding of subsistence fisheries management, said Suzanne Case, who chairs the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

“I see it as an opportunity to get the community heard,” said Laila Kaupu, ancestral descendant, in the video.

The designation of Milolii’s community-based fishery now awaits Gov. David Ige’s signature.

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