The Kawela Moku of the Molokai Aha Kiole system met yesterday for the first time to begin organizing the community in an effort to protect area resources through the use of the ancient Hawaiian management system.
About 13 people from the Kawela Moku — which stretches from Kamalo in the east to Kalamaula in the west — gathered at the Ka Honua Momona center at the Ali’i fishponds. Led by volunteers Kanoe Davis and Kawika Duvauchelle, the group opened the community-based decision making process by sharing its mission statement.
Davis read the statement: “As a community, we strive to preserve the resources of Molokai so that it may be in abundance for generations to come.”
The focus of Wednesday’s meeting was to identify and discuss ocean resources in the Kawela area. By first identifying these resources, the group then can move forward to develop and implement a management plan to protect them.
Uncle Mervin Dudoit was introduced as the po’o, or head, of the Kawela Moku who was appointed as the group’s acting kupuna by the leaders of the Aha Kiole system for Molokai. Kamalu Poepoe serves as the point of contact for all Molokai on the Aha Kiole while Opu’ulani Albino works as the group’s cultural advisor.
The statewide Aha Moku system was put into law by Act 288 in July of 2012 to serve as advisory committees to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Using the ancient best practices passed down by kupuna, the Aha Moku is a continuation of the konohiki system of indigenous management practices for land and ocean resources.
“This is an opportunity for people on the ground to have a voice,” explained Duvauchelle. “If we can say this is how the community feels that’s when we have the power to change.”
Duvauchelle characterized this process as “adaptive management” of local resources. Management, he explained, can mean many things: education, developing projects or providing advice. “It’s not for me to say,” said Duvauchelle, emphasizing the need to reach a collective consensus before taking specific action. “We first have to grasp our overlapping areas of mana’o.”
The group then discussed its six-step process for developing a management plan. It begins with identifying resources. Next, a management plan is created and then implemented. An assessment of the management plan will then take place to explore areas for improvement. The fifth step involves communication and sharing the findings of the management plan. Lastly, the group will use this review process to implement a revised management plan that is informed by the previous work.
“It’s a slow process, a long run,” explained Duvauchelle. “This is just the beginning.”
To get things started, the group distributed an inshore marine resource identification survey. Those in attendance were asked to identify the top five species of marine life that they would like to see “managed better.” A list of 33 marine species was on the survey along with spaces to include any additional species. Those species already regulated by the DLNR were identified.
Bill Puleloa, a retired fisheries expert and manager for the state, took exception with this process. “Why are we prioritizing our resources like it’s a popularity contest?” he asked. “Aren’t they all important? We want to keep them all and manage the whole ecosystem at one time. There are only three things that we need to take care of — habitat, habitat, habitat.”
Davis explained that the purpose of this approach is to “create focus” for future management efforts. By starting with a list of “overlapping” concerns, the group can better move forward to “look at the whole habitat,” said Davis
Duvauchelle emphasized that the survey is not about prioritizing but instead about building community support for specific management practices. “We need to have everyone’s mana’o about what we want better managed.”
To gather more input from the community, the Kawela Moku has scheduled two more meetings to share the marine survey and discuss its overall plan. The next two meetings on June 18 and July 3 will allow other members to contribute to this plan even if they could not attend yesterday’s meeting.