Miloliʻi Families Rally to Protect Subsistence Resources


By Kaʻimi Kaupiko, Director, Kalanihale

Declining abundance and diversity of fish and invertebrate species has long been an issue for families in the South Kona fishing village of Miloliʻi who depend on these resources for their livelihood.

In response, community members drafted a marine management plan and proposed rules for the Miloliʻi Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA), to ensure that subsistence resources will continue to thrive for future generations.

“We’ve seen a decline in pākuʻikuʻi, kole, uhu, and other important subsistence species,” said Leivallyn Kaupu, project coordinator of Kalanihale, the Miloliʻi-based nonprofit proposing the management plan and draft rules to the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). A lineal descendant of the area, Kaupu says these species are important to the community for cultural, economic, and social reasons. “We’ve depended on them for our food and subsistence for generations.”

Kaupu says that despite efforts to manage resources through community action these priority species are still declining.

Motivated by concerns over the sustainability of their nearshore resources, a group of Miloliʻi community members came together in 2017 to organize interviews and other consultation efforts to understand community concerns and desires regarding the management of their fishery.

In interviews with some 65 community members representing 50 Miloliʻi families, they found that 97% believed fish populations were less abundant now than in the past and an overwhelming majority said they wanted some type of management in Miloliʻi.

Many residents attribute much of the decline to overfishing and disregard for traditional management practices that historically maintained healthy marine populations. However, in recent years, seasonal changes in fish behavior, migration, and spawning, along with coral bleaching and increased surface temperatures, have raised concerns.

“We don’t see the limu. The life cycles are off. I believe climate and pollution has caused damage,” said local fisher, Michael Kalani Forcum at one community meeting. Others also believe aquarium fishing has impacted nearshore resources. Other fishers point out that it is irresponsible to overlook the important role that herbivores play in keeping the reefs healthy.

The lack of seasonal closures, along with illegal use of animal-based baits in ʻōpelu fishing known as “chop-chop” (kapu during the olden days because it brings in predators), are other areas of concern that residents hope the proposed plan will address.

While the formal process of developing a management plan and proposed rule package began in 2017, Miloliʻi’s CBSFA designation was originally passed by the state legislature in 2005 (Act 25). Over the last decade, significant outreach, monitoring, and stewardship has gone into efforts to mālama Miloliʻi waters. Administrative records compiled by Miloliʻi advocacy organization Kalanihale noted over 10,000 people were reached through education and outreach efforts, including over 700 participants in Miloliʻi’s annual lawaiʻa ʻohana camp, now in its 11th year.

The proposed CBSFA boundary includes 18.6 miles of coastline from Kīpāhoehoe to Kaunā to a depth of 100 fathoms. The management plan includes proposed rules and actions to help restore and maintain the abundance of resources in the area by addressing major threats and helping to ensure that critical ecosystems have opportunities to recover. The rules and activities also ensure that community members and visitors (non-residents) have abundant stocks of critically important species for subsistence catch, family events, and sharing.

During the next phase of the process, Kalanihale will collaborate with DAR to conduct public outreach and scoping meetings to gather additional feedback and comments.

For more info on the Miloliʻi CBSFA marine management plan and draft proposed rules or to see a timeline of events and FAQs visit

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Kaʻimi Kaupiko is a kupa of Miloliʻi and president of Kalanihale, an organization established in the rural fishing village of Miloliʻi in South Kona in response to community needs. Kalanihale has created youth programs and community projects for the past 30 years and has led the effort to establish Miloliʻi as a Community-Based Subsistance Fishing Area (CBSFA).