Gov. Creates Marine Reserve West of Hawai‘i Island

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Kaupulehu Ka‘ūpūlehu Administrative Record cover image.

Ka‘ūpūlehu Administrative Record cover image.


Gov. David Ige signed a new rule last week to create a new marine reserve at Ka‘ūpūlehu on the west coast of Hawai‘i island. The rule will take effect on Friday, July 29.

The new reserve boundaries will encompass the existing Ka‘ūpūlehu Fish Replenishment Area. The rule establishes a 10-year nearshore no-take “rest period”—with limited exceptions—to allow for the recovery of reef fish stocks prior to the implementation of a fishery management plan for Ka‘ūpūlehu.

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A map of the new Ka‘ūpūlehu marine reserve area and GPS coordinates of the boundaries.

“The establishment of this reserve is largely due to the steadfast commitment and efforts of many community members, including long-time fishermen and native Hawaiians who live and fish in this area,” said Suzanne Case, chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. “They worked for more than 17 years to get support for the Ka‘ūpūlehu Reserve. As a result of the rest period, we can expect to see more uhu and other reef fish critical to the health of the coral ecosystem at Ka‘ūpūlehu and surrounding areas.”


“Marine reserves and ‘rest’ areas have proven to be effective in many other areas of Hawai’i and around the world,” said Bruce Anderson, administrator of the Division of Aquatic Resources. “Coral reef ecosystems can recover in just five to 10 years under the right conditions and the Ka‘ūpūlehu area was a very productive fishery historically. We will monitor the abundance of fish and coral cover annually, and develop a responsible management plan that should allow for at least some types of fishing to resume once the rest area is re-opened.”

The rule prohibits the take or possession of any aquatic life within the reserve boundaries, from the shoreline seaward to the 20-fathom (120-foot) depth contour. Beyond the 20-fathom depth contour, hook-and-line fishing is allowed for the following bottom fish, pelagic, and introduced species: ‘opakapaka, kalekale, lehi, gindai, onaga, ehu, hapu‘upu‘u, uku, nabeta, aku, ahi and tombo, a‘u, ono, mahimahi, ta‘ape, toau, and roi; also Kona crab may be taken by Kona crab net.

The rule also prohibits the possession or use of any fishing gear other than hook-and-line and/or Kona crab net within the reserve; and deploying any fishing gear shoreward of the 20 fathom depth contour.


In 1998, the Legislature designated the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area to address declining aquatic resources resulting from improved shoreline access along the Kona Coast. The law, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes chapter 188F, required DLNR to identify and designate areas within the FMA as fish reserves where no fishing of reef-dwelling fish is allowed.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources held a combined public information meeting and formal public rulemaking hearing on Feb. 11, 2016 in West Hawai‘i to amend Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 13, chapter 60.4, to establish the Ka‘ūpūlehu Marine Reserve. The rules were approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources on May 27, 2016.

The updated regulation will be posted on Friday July 29, 2016, on the Division of Aquatic Resources website.


West Hawai’i Regional Fishery Management Focus of DLNR Meeting


Ka‘ūpūlehu, courtesy photo.

Kaupulehu John DeMello

Ka‘ūpūlehu. John DeMello photo.


Ka‘ūpūlehu. Courtesy photo.

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