(BIVN) – There are “a lot of positive signs” of fish recovery at the Kaʻūpūlehu Marine Reserve on the North Kona coast, placed under a decade-long kapu 3 years ago, a state official told commissioners in Hilo earlier this week.
John Kahiapo, with the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources’s Division of Aquatic Resources, gave the Hawaiʻi County Game Management Advisory Commission an update during a meeting on Tuesday evening.
“This month is the third year that the Reserve is in operation,” Kahiapo said, noting that the Kaʻupulahu Marine Life Advisory Committee meet the day before the GMAC meeting. “We’re working on the conservation action plan,” he said. “Yesterday, members were able to go out on the boat and just go holoholo, look around. And there’s a lot of positive signs. This is coming from the stories of the kūpuna in that area. Now you’re starting to see schools of fish, especially when you see along the shoreline or the tails sticking out of the water and feeding.”
The DLNR created the Ka‘ūpūlehu Marine Reserve in July 2016, which put in place the 10-year fishing moratorium, so dwindling fish populations reported by the community might recover.
In April 2019, the Nature Conservancy said data from a recent dive survey showed certain fish populations were already rebounding.
But there are still areas of concerns for the Kaʻupulahu Marine Life Advisory Committee, Kahiapo said. “They’re looking at the fresh water that flows and into Kahuwai Bay, looking at the protection of the salt pans that they have there, and restoring the anchialine ponds”, he said.
When commissioners asked if he thought it might be possible for Kaʻupulahu to open up before the 10-year proposal.
Some commissioners expressed disappointment in the outright ban on fishing in the area.
“At my age, waiting ten years probably means I probably not gonna be able to go down there anymore,” said Grayson Hashida, speaking from Kona. “For a young child growing up in that area, who had previously gone fishing in that area – in shoreline fishing, and pole, and throw-net – 10 years probably means they’re gonna become an adult and never be able to go back there again.”