New or amended ocean resources rules go before State Land Board

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On Friday, the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources will be asked to approve a new chapter in Hawai‘i Administrative Rules to enable an ocean stewardship user fee.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources is also asking the board to adopt Hawai‘i Administrative Rules amendments to reduce crowding at Molokini. The Board of Land and Natural Resources will also consider amendments to promote the sustainable harvest of important reef fish.

Ocean Stewardship User Fee

In 2021, the Hawai‘i State Legislature mandated the implementation of the Ocean Stewardship User Fee. Commercial operators that are required to have a Commercial Use Permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, will have to collect a $1.00 fee from each passenger or customer.

The user fees will support the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ conservation, restoration, enhancement and management of Hawai‘i’s marine resources.


Stakeholder and community testimony from multiple in-person and virtual informational briefings and public hearings showed support for the general concept of collecting fees from ocean users. Some commercial operators expressed concerns about the administrative and financial burdens placed on them. Since the fee is mandated by statute, it can’t be changed or waived by rulemaking. Given that, the Division of Aquatic Resources incorporated stakeholder input in designing a fee transfer system to minimize the burden on commercial operators.

The ocean stewardship fee proposal also underwent a Ka Pa‘akai Analysis, which is triggered when agencies consider uses of public trust resources that may impact the exercise of Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights.

The Division of Aquatic Resources received three public testimonies from the analysis. Two indicated the fees would or should support community stewardship, perpetuation of cultural knowledge and practices, and reducing the negative impact of ocean tourism on cultural resources. One testimony stated the proposed rules would negatively impact a commercial operation that prides itself in sharing culture knowledge and values.

Molokini Shoal Marine Life Conservation District


The Board of Land and Natural Resources is being requested to provide final approval for Hawai‘i Administrative Rules amendments for Molokini Shoal Marine Life Conservation District in Maui Nui.

When the Molokini Shoal Marine Life Conservation District was first established in 1977 there were no concerns with non-extractive marine tourism. Molokini is a strict no-take reserve.

Recent, scientific peer-reviewed studies have highlighted the need to take a close look at crowding concerns. The Division of Aquatic Resources started a process in 2018 to involve and consult with stakeholders to update the rules for Molokini. The goal is to reduce and/or prevent future impacts to the unique and fragile marine resources of the area.

The rules package is a direct result of that extensive consultation process.

  • Maximum time limit of two and a half hours on a day-use mooring;
  • No overnight use of day-use moorings;
  • Clarifies where anchors are allowed;
  • Requires DLNR to maintain a public list of sanctioned day-use mooring buoys;
  • Clarify boundaries and remove mooring zones in the day-use mooring area;
  • Update fee schedule for day-use moorings

Taking And Selling Of Certain Marine Resources

The board will also be asked to grant final approval to Hawai‘i Administrative Rules regulating the taking and selling of five important herbivorous reef fish and Kona crab through science-based and stakeholder-informed regulations. 

Manini, kole, kala, and uhu are important food fish targeted by fishers for recreational, subsistence, cultural, and commercial purposes. These fish play an important role in Hawaii’s nearshore waters. Pāpa‘i kualoa (Kona crab) is targeted by some noncommercial fishers and a small-scale commercial fishery. The proposed rule changes include:

  • Increase the minimum length for manini (Convict Tang) from five to six inches;
  • Establish a new minimum length of five inches for kole (Goldring Surgeonfish);
  • Establish a new noncommercial bag limit of four kala (Bluespine Unicornfish) per person per day;
  • Establish new restrictions on the commercial harvest and sale of kala;
  • Increase the minimum length for large-bodied uhu (Parrotfish) species from twelve to fourteen inches; 
  • Establish a minimum length of ten inches for all other uhu species;
  • Establish a new noncommercial bag limit of two uhu per person per day;
  • Establish restrictions on the commercial harvest and sale of uhu, including:
  • Extend the current closed season (May-August) for pāpa‘i kualoa (Kona Crab) to May-September;
  • Allow the take of female pāpa‘i kualoa

This month’s Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting will be held for two days, due to the postponement of its last November meeting. The order in which the board hears agenda items is subject to change.

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