Polanui Hiu working to heal reef in Lahaina
LAHAINA – With Polanui Hiu leading the way on the West Side, the Community Managed Makai Area (CMMA) crusade is strong, healthy and growing on Maui.
There is nothing new about the concept of community management.
It’s a return to the traditional Hawaiian model of decentralized resource management, John Parks of Marine Management Solutions told the Lahaina News, adding, “where local families and knowledgeable leaders have more involvement and influence over the management and fate of the natural resources found within their own community and ahupua’a.”
Ekolu Lindsey is the po’o (head) of Polanui Hiu. He described how the CMMA was formed in the family’s front yard situated along the shoreline in south Lahaina.
“The seed was planted when I took my dad (the late Uncle Ed Lindsey) and son (Ka’elo Lindsey) out diving on the canoe back in 2005. My father was quick to notice a lack of all marine resources
“If we had to sustain ourselves with what is on the water fronting our family home today, we would all be very lean and hungry,” Ekolu observed.
In 2010, the CMMA seed germinated.
“We heard a talk by John Parks (then) of The Nature Conservancy,” Ekolu continued, “and he spoke of the Local Managed Marine Areas in Fiji, and the success they have had at the community level. We were fortunate enough to meet the first group from Fiji who started this movement.
“That was the start of what is known today in Maui Nui as the Community Managed Makai Area (CMMA) movement,” Ekolu advised, and Polanui Hiu (PH) was the first CMMA on the island.
Mark Deakos is a marine scientist and founder of the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research. He is a CMMA advocate.
“Top-down management is not doing a good enough job at managing natural resources. When the resource is in your backyard, it’s the local community that is best equipped to manage it, since they have the most to gain or lose,” Deakos said.
“Re-introducing traditional management practices into community management has been hugely successful in other island communities, and we are glad to see momentum in that direction here in Hawaii.”
According to the PH brochure, “The project area extends from the high water mark to 70 feet in depth and from Makila Point to the punawai (water spring) fronting 505 Front Street.
“The area encompasses 222 acres of sand and rock beach and fringing and patch coral reefs. The area is small enough to be manageable by the community group and large enough to show biological gains under the appropriate strategies.”
The name of the reef is Na Papalimu ‘O Pi’ilani, a bountiful place for limu and fish.
Since its inception, participants in the Polaniu Hiu project have numbered in the hundreds, with a diverse range of skills and backgrounds, but all working towards the same vision: “The waters of Polanui are thriving with an abundance of native fishes and limu. The community is empowered through aloha to malama Na Papalimu ‘O Pi’lani and ho’omau in our traditions for future generations.”
The eco-stewards meet monthly on the first Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at 393 Front St., and they have an action plan: to preserve the natural shoreline; ho’opono na wai a kane a me Kanaloa (put in alignment the water of Kane and Kanaloa); and ho’ola hou na holoholo na a me na limu o Na Papalimu ‘O Pi’ilani (restore the healthy native Hawaiian reef ecosystem).
Their list of accomplishments is growing and impressive.
“We have brought a level of awareness and education to an area that has morphed from subsistence to recreational use. Education and awareness is the first steps before we can get to behavioral change,” Ekolu advised.
The publication of a 2015 West Maui Moon and Tide Calendar is a strong visual of a major achievement.
Baseline readings have also been conducted to help measure the success of their replenishment strategies.
“We have three years of studies for the area outside the reef,” Ekolu noted, “and we are working on gathering data on the near shore waters. Presence/ Absence Surveys, Fish Abundance Surveys, Human Use Surveys, Creel Surveys, Coral Reef Surveys, and Water Quality Testing are some of the tools we are using to measure our success or failure over time.”
However, there are challenges ahead.
“Polanui Hiu will be seeking a Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area Designation recognized by DLNR (state Department of Land & Natural Resources). We will be asking for a five-year rest period to allow resources to recover,” Ekolu said.
Deakos supports these efforts and would like to form a CMMA in Olowalu.
“The science has come a long way,” Deakos said. “We now have the ability to take a coral sample and say something about when it was stressed and what caused the stress. Citizen science is a growing field and is contributing tremendously to the advancement of science.”
Parks is positive about the CMMA movement as well.
“CMMAs serve as a vehicle for local communities to fulfill their desire to organize and take immediate action on helping to reverse the negative trends they have observed regarding the health of the marine resources in their neighborhood.
“Second,” Parks continued, “CMMAs support local families in actively asserting their traditional responsibilities as lineal descendants over nearshore marine waters while clearly demonstrating the benefit of doing so”
“Finally,” Parks remarked, “CMMAs are a non-government process that may actually help county and state government agencies fulfill their regulatory mandates.”
“Polanui Hiu is only the beginning,” Parks concluded.
“The Lindsey family and their south Lahaina neighbors are leading the charge in how the corals and reef fish around Hawaii’s main islands are going to be locally managed during this century.
“Maui’s CMMAs are a real-time acknowledgement of how traditional knowledge and cultural practices of the past remain a valid solution that we must abide by today, and into the future.”
Social media is spreading the word of Polanui Hiu, with Lisa Agdeppa the behind-the-scenes powerhouse of the Facebook page, e-mail blasts and creator and distributor of educational flyers.
She is passionate and practical at the same time.
“I’d really like to see our coral reefs begin to heal,” she said.
“This is a long process, but the fact that we understand the causes of disease is the first step.
“Finding solutions with people who share our passion and love for the ocean is the best part. We meet people from all backgrounds, worldwide experiences with the ocean. They share their knowledge and love; this is an amazing part of working with people. We make new friends, share bonds, and all for the love of our ocean and its resources. This is why I love being part of Polanui Hiu.”
Ekolu embraces the value of inclusiveness.
“We have been able to bridge science and people to form a cohesive hui. We are working towards a better today, for an awesome tomorrow,” he said. “Everyone can help!”
Join them the first Saturday of the month or connect with Agdeppa on Facebook at www.facebook.com/polanuihiucmma.