Protecting Hawai‘i’s Near-Shore Waters through Partnerships

Opihi Monitoring_Kipahulu_Group Shot_Alana Yurkanin
‘Opihi monitoring in Kīpahulu, Maui. Photo credit: Alana Yurkanin

The Marine 30x30 Initiative has a big goal, and an innovative way to reach it that involves both private and public stakeholders

As president of Hui Makaʻāinana o Makana, a nonprofit dedicated to the stewardship and protection of Hā‘ena State Park on Kaua‘i’s north shore, Presley Wann and his fellow community members have dedicated more than 20 years to maintaining the area. However, when Wann saw the peaceful Hā‘ena of his youth eventually fill up with close to 3,000 visitors a day, he knew the park was hitting its limits. “Hā‘ena was getting loved to death,” Wann says.

After a decade of urging from the Hāʻena community, Governor David Ige in 2015 designated Hā‘ena State Park as the first Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area in Hawai‘i, which allowed the local community and the state to manage the area together. This designation has since had a positive impact in terms of helping to restore native life to Hā‘ena and reducing the park’s overall footprint.

Hā‘ena’s positive results became an early milestone of success for a larger conservation project: Marine 30x30, a sustainability initiative launched in 2016 aimed at effectively managing 30 percent of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters by 2030. For Marine 30x30, communities themselves have a say in how they want to manage their resources. Local stakeholders, those who live in the area and who understand traditional Hawaiian farming and fishing techniques, are being brought in to the planning conversation and asked what sustainability practices they would propose for the area they know best.

“The 30x30 Initiative will be accomplished through relationships between communities, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], and the government. Collaboration is the key,” says Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

With the help of a wide range of knowledgeable participants that includes marine scientists, Hawaiian cultural practitioners, sustainability experts, and environmental attorneys, the Marine 30x30 Initiative is pursuing objectives that range from reviving traditional Hawaiian land and ocean stewardship practices, to increasing public funding for long-term protection of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters, and operating as a transparent program to ensure coordination and accountability between conservation partners.

In 2021, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation helped unlock the promise of Marine 30x30’s private/public partnership by using a pooled field-of-interest fund to support the efforts of several conservation nonprofits with the help of donors. One important project has been establishing a framework for monitoring data, so that it will be possible to define conservation baselines and benchmarks.

HCF is also planning to support a cohort of communities on Maui and Lāna‘i with funding and training to better manage their marine resources in collaboration with the state DAR.

“Studies all over the world have shown that marine protected areas create benefits that spillover into surrounding areas,” says Wann. “We’re already seeing that at Hā‘ena, with an increase of fish and marine life spreading up and down the Nā Pali Coast. I can’t express enough the importance of involving the community and incorporating indigenous knowledge to direct the science on how to best protect Hawai‘i waters.”

To learn more about the Marine 30x30 initiative, visit