Course:FRST370/A contemporary exploration of Native Hawaiian preferences, practices, and involvement in ocean and land management (Hawaii, USA)

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Hawaiian values, land management history, and State conservation efforts.

The holistic values of Hawaiian culture are based on ho’olokahi; to bring unity and harmony among humanity, nature and spiritual forces[1]. Traditionally these values translated to strategic land-management divisions called Ahupua’a; these served the purpose of share-cropping [surely this is the wrong word? If it is the right word, then provide a dictionary glossary] among the Ali’I (the hereditary line of ownership) and the maka’ãinana (common people)[2]. Like other traditional groups, Hawaiians practice nurturing of the land to produce resources and they harvest only what is necessary for subsistence and prosperity. These resources are those of the ‘Āina (land); that which feeds[3]. Some Hawaiians object to this term of subsistence and prefer the term “traditional practice”, the definition of this is “the customary and traditional uses of wild and cultivated renewable resources for direct personal or family consumption as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools, transportation, and culture"[1]. Note; Many Hawaiian values and concepts remain hard to translate because they don’t fit into modern legal concepts[3]. Since the mid 1800’s to today the recognition of traditional Hawaiian rights and ownership remain a complex and unclear issue due to land-ownership change, customary rights and the transition from a feudal system (land was exchange for work; ex. Commoner received land to farm) to an allodial system (ownership of real property) of land ownerships[2].

Timeline of changes in Hawaiian property rights to land since the first Constitution 1840[2][1]:
1845 Land commission was created, beginning of the transition from feudal system.
1848 “The Great Mahele” (great land division)
  • land divided for the 1) government, 2) Ali’I, and 3)King
  • This is considered to be the tipping point pushing land ownership from feudal ownership to an allodial system.
1850 Land commission could award land to those who physically occupied, cultivated and improved Ali’I lands.
1893 Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown. Crown lands (owned by king) were made part of public domain.
1894 takeover of lands by republic of Hawaii
1898 takeover of lands by United States Government.
  • No compensation to native Hawaiians
1959 Hawaii became a state; upon admission, the government and crown lands were transferred to the state.
1978 “The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposed and possessed by the Ahupua’a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the state to regulate such rights.”

Presently it is more understood that native Hawaiians have a particular inherent connection to the crown lands, those lands which were supposed to be held in trust for the people of Hawaii. Native Hawaiians are on the verge of this new era of contemporary conservation and resource management where they will once again be able to control land and resources and govern their own affairs[3].  

The Native Hawaiians have historical practices used for the maintenance, conservation of coastal and land resources; however, during colonialism, the kingdom was forcefully transferred to the US government and traditional Native Hawaiian practices diminished. Their identity remains unrecognized at a federal level. The State of Hawai’i however has implemented constitutional safeguards to protect the native people’s interests.[4]

Hawai'i Tropical Action Plan 1994:

In 1994 Hawai'i prepared a tropical action plan as a joint effort between the governor of Hawai'i and the US Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior, to address problems and opportunities facing Hawai'i’s forests[1].

The task force created 25 recommendations calling for improved future conditions using 4 calls to action[1];

Four Calls to Action in the Hawai'i Tropical Action Plan
Informing and involving stakeholders in planning and management of Hawai'i’s forests.
Establishing a sustainable and balanced forestry program in Hawai'i managing both native and introduced forests
Intensifying forest stewardship by managing and protecting native forests, restoring threatened and endangered species and learning new information about the forests.
The monitoring of effectiveness is essential for long-term recovery.

It is important for the Hawaiian task force to incorporate Hawaiian perspectives into the action plan, however the task force recognizes there will be competing and sometimes conflicting interests for Hawai'i’s forests; sometimes incompatible with traditional Hawaiian uses. Effort needs to be made to ensure sensitivity and FPIC [decode acronyms] during such situations[1].

Case Study #1: Hawaiian Island Marine Ecosystem; Ecosystem and Community-Based Management in West Hawai'i

The Main Hawaiian Islands contain the largest reef area in the United States, providing room for dispute and varying perspectives in terms of management regimes and conservation efforts. This case study focuses on the marine resource governance and management in the Hawaiian Islands large marine ecosystem in the Miloli'i community of West Hawai’i (hereon referred to at Miloli'i or West Hawai’i) and the development of ecosystem based management from a bottom-up community based approach.


The Hawaiian Large Marine Ecosystem is home to a high number of endemic species and supports about 5,000 invertebrate species, 680 fish species, and 8,000 species of marine algae and plants[5]. It also serves as a fishery resource for subsistence, aquariums, and small-scale recreational use. This ecosystem faces a variety of threats such as over exploitation and depletion of coastal resources, overfishing in near shore reef ecosystems, human population growth, habitat destruction, new unsustainable fishing techniques, and loss of traditional conservation practices. Commercial fisheries and the trade of live-caught fish for aquarium use perhaps provides the largest threat to this coastal recourse for it is a large industry that affects regional populations of species while recreational and artisanal fisheries are much larger industries; however, the biggest threat today is anthropogenic pollution and coastal development.



The Miloi'i community is the main affected stakeholder and includes community members that rely on the coastal resources for subsistence and who feel that it is their duty to promote sustainable practices for the conservation of this marine ecosystem. Among the community, the local NGOs have a small role as affected stakeholders as its members originated from the Miloli'i community and created these organizations.

Local NGOs:

  • Malama Kai Foundation of (West Hawai'i)
  • LOST FISH Coalition (West Hawai'i)
  • Kula Naia Wild Dolphin Foundation (West Hawai'i)
  • Pacific Whale Foundation (Maui)
  • Save our Seas (Kauai)

Interested Outside

Interested Stakeholders [5]
Stakeholders at Federal Level Role/purpose
United States and the State of Hawai'i
  • has jurisdiction over fisheries, harbour access, and boat use
  • manages marine resources with associated federal agencies
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) subdivisions:
  • The National Marine Sanctuary
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • responsible for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve (3-50 nm offshore)
  • manages fisheries and fish habitat through the Western Pacific Fisher Management Council
NOAA and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) held accountable for protecting endangered birds and mammals in the coastal ecosystems that apply to Hawai’i under the Endangered Species Act
Stakeholders at State Level
The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR), Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) has the legal jurisdiction in all state waters; manages marine resources- regulates fisheries via administrative rule making authority (seasonal limits, catch quotas, gear restrictions, aquaculture-base stoke enhancement, marine protected areas)
Hawai’i Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) foresees the DAR and enforces their administrative rules over the state; however, this division is considered to be very week in because of underfunding and lack of political will. This lack of enforcement of protection form DOCARE has lead to dispute in West Hawai’i.

Tenure and Administration Arrangements

As a result of the weak enforcement of DOCARE and the continued depletion and degradation of marine resources, local communities began to create ecosystem and community based solutions regarding fishery issues and coal reef conservation. Due to their limited authority, the West Hawai’i Community pressured state and local authorities such as DOCARE and the DLNR for a co-management regime over coastal areas. This pressure resulted in the Hawai’i legislature passing the Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) Act in 1994 that permitted local communities to assist in the development of enforced regulations and precautions for fishery management plans with an inclusion of traditional knowledge though the designation of areas by the DLNR[5]. This state and federal support led to the Hawai’i Coral Reef Initiative that called for community-based approaches for education, conservation, and research on coral reef ecosystems where partnerships between the Miloli'i community, NGOs, and the state created projects dedicated to the education of the population on marine ecosystems.

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

The Miloli'i community of West Hawai’i used community- based management as a tool towards ecosystem based management with the goals to promote marine resource sustainability, reduce user conflicts, and involve the community in collaborative decision-making. Community and state involvement led to the creation of the LOST FISH Coalition, a local NGO, created to ban aquarium fish collecting in West Hawai'i[5]. They became a lobbying group for the local community that spoke of managing fisheries efficiently by including sustainable practices to enhance marine resources; very similar to the role that CARE International played in the Zanzibar case study where their services provided support for the local community and acted as an intermediary consultant between state and community[6]. It received high support and community involvement that eventually led to co-management in Act 306 in Hawaii State Legislature which commissions a five-year review of Fishery Replenishment Areas. As a result, species abundance increased by 49% in the yellow tang fish species and by 141% in chevron Tang[5]. The LOST FISH Coalition also created the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area that served as a framework through the DLNR. In that fishery management area, co-management approaches for resource management were promoted and which incorporated ecological and local knowledge to deal with threats and education[5]. This framework also included the key aspect of a top-down approach and bottom-up involvement.

Discussion and remarks

The mistreatment, degradation, and over exploitation of marine resources did not go unnoticed in the Miloli'i community. Local concern led to greater community involvement in decision making, co-management agreements and practices, and a shift in power to the community. As a result of the co-management regimes, species populations increased and the DLNR developed a Civil Resource Violation System to issue penalties when natural resource violations occurred to ensure the sustainability and preservation of the ecosystem. Successful community involvement led to a state Bill which passed in 2004 that created state-wide community-based co-management plans and areas to further extend protection over these valuable ecosystems.

Case Study #2 Tourist-resident relations and perception of community-based management in the Ahupua'a of Hā'ena.

Hā'ena, Kauai

Hā'ena is the most western ahupua’a of the Halele’a district, on the island of Kauai. Geographically, Hā'ena is surrounded by steep cliffs broken by a water-shedding valley called Mānoa. The ahupua’a stretches three miles along the coast, a reef extends the entire length of the coast[7]. Hā'ena has experienced an exponential increase in tourism in the past century, currently hosting upwards of 700,000 guests per year. Recently, many non-profits and government organizations have reached out to the community in efforts to implement conservation measures. Presently, new collaborative management policies with the state department of land and natural resources (DNLR) presents opportunities for local residents to have a voice in the management of their environment[8]. This case study examines the local residents' perceptions and activities based on place-based connections and perceived responsibilities between two main stakeholder groups.



Residents of Hā'ena and surrounding ahupua'a are the affected stakeholders of this case study.

  • Local fisherman rely on the health of the coral reef and the in-shore fish which occupy local waters
  • Native Hawaiian residents have traditionally relied on the customary use of this area's resources for subsistence.
  • Taro farmers rely on the healthy watershed to continue farming in the agricultural zone of the ahupua’a.

The main objective of the affected stakeholder group is the continued stewardship of the land, the recognition of residents' roles in land-management and the education of incoming tourists to the ahupua'a.

Interested Outside

The main interested stakeholder in this case study is the increasing tourist population in Hā'ena. 700,000 tourists visit the Ahupua’a of Hā'ena every year[8], for this reason management decisions needs to consider this population as an important force.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) is another interested stakeholder of Hā'ena. This departments holds important power and authority, but does not have intrinsic value for this space and is not dependent on it for livelihood.

Finally, the researchers for this case study[8] are interested stakeholders, during the process of this research it was important for researchers to stay self-aware of their place in Hā'ena as visitors, and communicate to traditional residents in an appropriate manner.

Tenure and management history and arrangements[8].

A history of land ownership and important authority in Hā'ena
Pre 1884 60 native Hawaiian Hā'ena residents managed Ahupua'a of Hā'ena through subsistence practices.
1884 Land started to be privatized.
1898 Hawaii annexed to be territory of the United States.
2006 Hawaii designated Hā'ena as the first community subsistence fishery in the state.*
  • This designation allows residents to work with Division of Aquatic Resources to create policy, thus regulating and enforcing the Hā'ena coastline using traditional management practices.
2014 DLNR holds formal management authority.
Present New collaborative management policies between state DLNR and Hā'ena community provide local-level policies for use of in-shore marine resources and coastal public park.
Hā'ena Shipman Beach

Resident - tourist place-connections and perceptions of Hā'ena.

The basis of this case study assumes positive place-connections relates to positive place-protection or conservation efforts. Many questions were explored when establishing place connection of residents and tourists;

Resident - Tourist Perceptions[8]
Explored Topic Resident Perceptions Tourist Perception
How is information acquired about Hā'ena? Information from family, traditions, or passed down practices and experiential learning Information from guidebooks or past tourists
What activities are residents vs tourists engaging in? Fishing, shelling, surfing, camping and snorkeling Picnicking, and snorkeling
How healthy do residents vs tourists

perceive Hā'ena's natural environment?

Residents perceived the health of the local environment as relatively low compared to tourist perceptions Tourists perceived the health of the local environment as relatively high compared to resident perceptions
Who is perceived as responsible for management and

care of Hā'ena natural environment?

Residents credited the local community for management, enforcement, and care for the local environmental and natural resources. Tourists perceived the upkeep, management, and enforcement of the local environment to the department of land and resources.
What is the perceived responsibility to preserve the local


Residents showed a high level of perceived responsibility regarding environmental behaviours. Residents would pick up after others at the beach, enforce local norms like staying off the reefs, and enforce laws such as overfishing. Tourists showed a level of perceived responsibility relatively lower than residents' perceptions. Tourists would obey simple rules such as "leave no trace" or "pick up after yourself", rarely would tourists go beyond these actions.

Overall these findings show a separation in perceptions between residents and tourists. These findings show that although both stakeholders are frequent users of Hā’ena’s natural environment, they may have minimal opportunities to interact because of their different engagements. With these findings come a list of implications when managing resources for conservation purposes;

Implications of Tourist - Resident Perceptions on community-based management[8]
Regulations and policy Policy and regulations need to be written to ensure sensitivity to traditional practices, for example; policy which restricts access to certain areas may be effective in regulating tourist access and potential damage, however may restrict and/or criminalize traditional practices such as fishing and shelling
Information transmission Past evidence has shown tourists receive large amounts of information about Hā’ena from guidebooks often written by interested stakeholders. This can provide misleading information or misperceptions about local norms. This method of transmitting information about Hā’ena creates a barrier between local knowledge and tourists perceptions.
Norms and Values The transmission of local norms and values are minimal to restricted because of the non-authentic experience most tourists receive when visiting Hā’ena.
Tourism    Often a high volume of tourism is associated with positive outsider perspectives on quality of environment. Due to the increasing volume of tourists visiting Hā’ena it is important to acknowledge this assumption and use objective evidence of environmental conditions rather than subjective evidence. Increasing tourism can also deter residents and native Hawaiians from using their traditional land.

We recommend the local community to begin a local-conservation group in order to ensure policies implemented are at the local level. This will ensure that affected stakeholders receive a level of authority appropriate for their dependence on, and intrinsic relationship with the land. I would also recommend that the local community proposes a co-authorship program with the publishers of popular guidebooks; this will ensure appropriate perceptions of cultural norms and values and may also allow residents to have a level of control regarding the volume of tourists in significant locations. Residents and locals alike may benefit from partnerships that could be formed with tourism companies. For example, a program which allows residents to host tourist orientations may provide tourists a new perspective on the views locals hold, and opportunities to receive appropriate education on norms and unwritten rules such as beach safety and etiquette as well as pro-environmental behaviors. Overall, community-based resource management can bridge the gap between affected and interested stakeholders, and may provide more interaction opportunities between residents and tourists. Local management initiatives, volunteer and education opportunities will provide residents a heightened sense of place and empowerment. Learning from residents, tourists can receive a heightened sense of place-connection and learn to appreciate and understand local land management. Furthermore, I recommend the community of Hā'ena to use the case study of Unguja in Zanzibar[6] for further recommendations and examples, for these two communities have each experienced similar levels of increased tourism. This process is currently being implemented in the form of restricted tourist access in state parks as seen on the government of Hawai'i website[9].

Case Study #3: Linking the Land and the Sea Through ICCAs

CBSFAs Paving the Way [4]

coral bleaching site in Hawai'i

At a national and state level, coral reefs are recognized as important sites for biodiversity and resources and are recognized as a vital ecosystem in need of protection. In the Hawaiian Islands, there is a stress on Local and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (LEK and TEK) to build resilience where there is high vulnerability to climate change and disturbance. The successes of CBSFAs [decode acronym] in Hā'ena, Kauai, restored local-level management of fisheries and coastal resources and marine areas that were based on Native Hawaiian practices; the area became governed by the community with rules that originated from traditional, ancestral Hawaiian knowledge and practices. After CBSFAs, there was the intention of protecting fish nurseries for species that that are culturally, economically and ecologically significant beyond management regulations. Communities were seeking customary moku (ridge-to-reef) management approaches where ahupua’a’s (that are currently owned by the state and the National Tropical Botanical Garden NGO) are Kapu (have land restrictions), and Pono (sustainable practices to preserve resources). The idea was for local people to make the decisions regarding land and resource management and utilization that would result in the conservation of watersheds and restoring biological abundance through the integration of traditional Hawaiian practices.

Ka’upulehu, Hawai’i [4]

The more commercially and residentially developed state of Ka’upulehu, Hawai’i introduces the importance of place-based management. The opening of a resort and the Ka’ahumanu highway released nutrient discharge into the oceans, promoting benthic algae growth, reducing coral recovery from climate change bleaching events; this led to declines in coastal resources and resilience. In response, the Ka’upulehu community began documenting the land use change impacts on fish and coral reef health which led to the implementation of a law that issued a 10 year fishing rest period, a campaign called “Try Wait,” that protected the area along the coastline. During this time, the community developed their long-term management plan and strategy centred around traditional Hawaiian practices. The community recorded changes in fish abundance due to terrestrial activity such as nutrient overflow into oceans and coastal development. The local scale and place-based solutions are essential in contrast to broad management plans due to higher vulnerability of differentiating geographic areas.  

Discussion of ICCAs[4]

The implementation of this Indigenous and Community Conserved Area (ICCA) was prompted by local communities in an effort to protect resources through customary law. ICCAs recognize the need to empower indigenous communities and people to implement traditional ecological knowledge to understand the relationship between nature and people through ahupua’a based management with LEK to improve social-ecological resilience and address local environment threats. ICCAs are implemented for land security and tenure, protection from outside treats, for the access to and restoration of terrestrial and marine resources, local participation in the management of these areas, community empowerment, cultural identity, and community cohesiveness. This culturally grounded and inclusive research in ICCAs require taking integrative approaches, evaluating trade-offs, and developing win-win solutions. Through community and traditional land management, ecosystem resilience to climate change is promoted for the positive effects on the cultural resources for local communities. ICCAs have become a model of co-management through the success of Ka’upulehu and Hā'ena in restoring resources through local ecological knowledge and community-based land management where customary resource management approaches have been implemented and successfully maintained.

Final Remarks and Recommendations

Throughout our case study explorations, ahupua'a based management regimes have been proven to restore ecological resilience, species populations, and coastal resources. With these case studies as evidence, we recommend ahupua'a based management regimes to be spread throughout the islands and globally, in various communities that face similar challenges. These ideas are gaining community and state support, where ahupua'a councils are being developed in some areas to manage conservation efforts in specific areas of land. [3]


Ho’olokahi; to bring unity and harmony among humanity, nature and spiritual forces.

Ahupua’a; strategic land divisions from mountains to ocean; social-ecological communities

Ali’I; Hereditary line of ownership, sometimes referred to as chief

Maka’ãinana; common people, however under no obligation to stay in a single Ahupua’a

‘Āina; that which feeds

Feudal system; Lands exchanged for work

Allodial system; Ownership of real property titles

Kapu; restrictions on any area of land whether is be for sacred or conservation purposes

Pono: sustainable practices to preserve resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Hawaii Tropical Forest Recovery Task Force. Hawaii tropical forest recovery action plan, Hawaii tropical forest recovery action plan (1994). Honolulu: Hawaii Tropical Forest recovery Task Force. Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dyke, V., & M., J. (2008). Summary and Conclusions in Who owns the Crown lands of Hawaii? Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Minerbi, L. (1999). Indigenous Management Models and Protection of the Ahupua'a. Indigenous Management Models and Protection of the Ahupua'a (Vol. 39). Soc. Process Hawai‘i.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Delevaux, J. M. S., Winter, K. B., Jupiter, S. D., Blaich-Vaughan, M., Stamoulis, K. A., Bremer, L. L., … Ticktin, T. (2018). Linking Land and Sea through Collaborative Research to Inform Contemporary applications of Traditional Resource Management in Hawai‘i. Sustainability, 10. Retrieved from
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Brian N. Tissot, William J. Walsh & Mark A. Hixon (2009) Hawaiian Islands Marine Ecosystem Case Study: Ecosystem- and Community-Based Management in Hawaii, Coastal Management, 37:3-4, 255-273, DOI: 10.1080/08920750902851096   
  6. 6.0 6.1 Menzies, N. (2007). Menzies Jozani Forest, Ngezi Forest, and Misali Island, Zanzibar.pdf: FRST 370 101 Community Forests and Community Forestry. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from
  7. Kauai, C. O. (n.d.). Hā'ena. Retrieved from
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Vaughan , M. B., & Ardoin, N. M. (2014). The implications of differing tourist/resident perceptions for community-based resource management: a Hawaiian coastal resource area study. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 22(1). doi:
  9. Hawaii, G. (2019, April 30). Go Hawaii. Retrieved from

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Samuel Clement & Chanel Yee. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.