Miloliʻi Family Ties and Traditions of Care Run Deep and Wide

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Photo: Laila Kaupu practices traditional kilo of the ocean
Kilo, or observation, is an integral part of pono ʻāina and marine management. Here Laila Kaupu practices traditional kilo of the ocean off of Miloliʻi. - Photos: Kaimi Kaupiko

By Uʻilani Naipo

Miloliʻi families have ties all along the South Kona coast of Hawaiʻi. Historically referred to as the Kapalilua area – the area of the two pali (cliffs) – and in some oral history accounts as the region all the way to South Point.

The names of the koʻa (fishing grounds) and landmarks are not widely shared but passed down from generation to generation along with the practices to mālama. This speaks to the true intimate relationship we have with our ʻāina and our legacy koʻa.

Our genealogy ties us to these areas but also to our kuleana to mālama ʻāina – to care for that which feeds. Today, we are able to exercise this kuleana through shared stewardship of the Miloliʻi Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA).

In August 2021, the lineal descendants of Miloliʻi and the local nonprofit Kalanihale submitted a marine management plan proposal to DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). The plan includes proposed rules and boundaries for the Miloliʻi CBSFA, which was designated in 2005 but currently has no established rules. Since submitting its proposal to DAR, we have been connecting with fishers and ocean users to gather feedback and comments.

The proposed rules and boundaries include a mixture of gear restrictions, bag limits, and seasonal closures developed through consultation with ʻohana and fishers of Miloliʻi and the surrounding areas. They integrate findings from both traditional and modern marine biological surveys, along with years of kilo – the traditional practice of observation – and are designed to protect 10 fish groups that have been depleted or were identified as vulnerable species important to the subsistence and livelihood of our community.

Our kuleana to mālama ʻāina has no borders

In 1862 and 1865, my great-great-grandfather, Kaluaihalawa, wrote in Ka Nūpepa Kūokoʻa under the name “Luna Mālama ʻĀina” admonishing fishers of the area to mind the rights of the konohiki (traditional land manager). This is the earliest documentation and testimony to the practice of stewardship within our family for the areas within our proposed management zones.

Known as one of the last traditional fishing villages, Miloliʻi is storied for its ʻōpelu. It is one of the few Hawaiian fishing communities that still hānai iʻa (feeds fish) at our koʻa ʻōpelu.

As detailed in oral histories collected by Kepā and Onaona Maly, hanai ʻōpelu began by preparing the palu, grating kalo and palaʻai (squash), in the pre-dawn hours.

When we go to sleep, just as our keiki sleep soundly in the next room, our koʻa sleep in the other room – along our coastline. The koʻa ʻōpelu, like our keiki, need rest. That’s when kapu is placed on them. Our kuleana is to feed them during this rest period.

Continuing the traditional practices of ʻōpelu fishing is the legacy of our kūpuna.

Photo: An ice breaker before a 2020 community meeting
An ice breaker before a 2020 community meeting in Miloliʻi to share the CBSFA.

We honor them in the proposed rules for our traditional ʻōpelu management zone. From Nāpōhakuloloa to Kapuʻa, we propose seasonal closures for ʻōpelu from February to August, while still permitting harvest by hook and line. We also support the existing state law prohibiting “chop-chop” – meat-based chum – to minimize predators.

The rules proposed in the four types of management zones are designed to protect traditional and customary practices while also sustaining healthy conditions in these areas to promote replenishable fish stocks.

Our Pākuʻikuʻi Rest Area from Makahiki point to Honomalino seeks to preserve pākuʻikuʻi, a favored fish rarely seen today. Our kūpuna vividly recall stories of the depletion of pākuʻikuʻi from the nearshore areas.

We also propose gear restrictions in several Puʻuhonua zones, which were strategically identified based on locations of koʻa and the convergence of nutrient-rich Kona and Kaʻū currents, as derived from kūpuna moʻolelo, traditional knowledge, and recent observations and studies.

Our Puaaiʻa Miloliʻi zone is our ocean classroom where keiki develop their kinship with the kai, learn about traditional practices and pono harvesting, and become like the pua iʻa (baby fish) that we nurture in these koʻa.

As the community progresses through preliminary scoping and eventually the Chapter 91 process, we are being asked to propose precise markers for management zones. We understand that as one aspect of co-stewardship with the State of Hawaiʻi, but ultimately, we know our kuleana to mālama ʻāina has no borders.

By implementing the proposed Miloliʻi Marine Management Plan we seek to restore fish abundance, promote lawaiʻa pono (proper fishing practices) and be a model subsistence-based fishing community. Support for these types of sustainable measures for a healthy ocean, including CBSFA efforts in Kīpahulu, Maui, and Moʻomomi, Molokaʻi, ensure a better future for our keiki and for all of Hawaiʻi.


For more info on the Miloliʻi CBSFA marine management plan, draft proposed rules and management areas, visit www.kalanihale.com/cbsfa – if you would like to provide comments and feedback on the proposed rules please visit this survey and feedback form.

Uʻilani Naipo is a lineal descendant of Miloliʻi working to maintain the family genealogy of Kānaka ʻohana and ʻāina in the area.