How the Pūpūkea-Waimea MLCD was created
The North Shore Neighborhood Board was approached in the 1970s by divers who expressed an interest in better management for the Pūpūkea area. Marine life was becoming more and more scarce, according to divers and fishermen alike, and the increased use of the area by commercial dive operators and fishermen was sited as a possible reason. A survey by Hawai‘i Sea Grant in 1975 indicated strong support among 1,800 people surveyed for designating Pūpūkea as a new marine reserve (Kimmerer & Durbin 1975). The State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) initiated public meetings in 1978 to discuss what to do. Fishermen were not opposed to making the area a Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD), but they didn’t want to be restricted from accessing the area; they especially wanted to be able to traverse the area to get to a popular spearfishing site. The Pūpūkea MLCD was officially created in 1983, with certain types of fishing and limu collecting still allowed.
By the 1990s, the DLNR recognized that the existing rules were too difficult to enforce and began discussing amendments to the rules. The North Shore Neighborhood Board again got involved, drafting amendments to the rules and presenting them to the DLNR. State Senator Robert Bunda and Representative Alex Santiago convened a task force of stakeholders, who recommended rules changes to the DLNR. After an extensive public hearings process, the area of the MLCD was expanded, and rules were revised several times—most recently in 2003. The MLCD now covers over 100 acres. It restricts fishing that impacts coral reef species. Only shore fishing and seasonal akule and ‘ōpelu fishing are still allowed in one limited part of the MLCD in Waimea Bay and limited limu (seaweed) gathering is allowed. Otherwise, any take of the protected resources in the MLCD is prohibited, including fishing at Shark’s Cove or Three Tables, using a spear gun even for transit, collecting marine life (including shells), fishing, gathering of ‘opihi, and damage to or removal of the coral.
Despite the added protection, the MLCD continues to experience serious threats such as over-use and improper use of the area, including harassment of marine life and trampling of coral and algae; illegal and over-fishing; and pollution from development in the nearby area.
Visitors and residents alike may be unaware of regulations and the impacts of improper behaviors such as trampling coral. Also, a lack of scientific data regarding the area’s carrying capacity has resulted in an absence of regulations regarding the heavy commercial and recreational use that the MLCD experiences.
Fishers in Pacific Island communities that have successful marine managed areas, as well as many scientific experts who have studied the issues, agree that effective marine protection and restoration strategies such as MLCDs – if effectively enforced by the community in partnership with the government – can successfully replenish and sustain fish stocks in and out of the MLCDs. More, bigger, and healthier fish benefit everyone and result in better catches outside of the MLCD. The entire ecosystem also benefits from a “rest” from human overuse.
The knowledge and support of North Shore fishers, recreational users, commercial users, and residents are vital to helping improve this precious resource so that there is more fish now and for the future.
This special area will continue to provide sustenance and benefits for present and future generations with the involvement of the entire community that uses and enjoys this beautiful area.