Hawaii fisherman.


hoʻi i ke kai momona: Return to an abundant ocean

The ocean has always been central to life in Hawai‘i, providing food, cultural benefits and recreation.

But threats such as overfishing, coastal development and harmful runoff have weakened ocean health — and essential fish populations. To ensure that the ocean will feed Hawai‘i's people for generations to come, Conservation International Hawai‘i merges traditional knowledge with Western science, conservation tools and strategies for changing how people and business value local, sustainable seafood.


What is the taʻape?

Learn more about how a beautiful and invasive fish has the power to feed communities across Hawaiʻi


Why is Hawai‘i important?

Food we eat

Seafood, an important source of protein and essential fatty acids, contributes to the nutritional well­being of millions of people across the world. In Hawai‘i, more than 90% of people consume seafood on a regular basis — nearly three times the U.S. average.

Jobs and prosperity

Hawai‘i's coral reefs provide tremendous value: They attract divers and snorkelers, support fisheries that provide food and income, harbor unique biodiversity that draws scientists and researchers, and increase property values. Combined, these benefits contribute an estimated US$ 360 million to the state’s economy every year.

Joy and inspiration

The ocean is a source of renewal and recreation for Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors alike. For centuries, the ocean has served as a wellspring of cultural practice, values and traditional knowledge. Today, 68% of Hawai‘i’s households regularly enjoy the ocean and all the pastimes it has to offer, including fishing. Of the 7 million visitors to the island chain each year, 80% participate in beach activities, and more than half snorkel or dive.

What are the issues?

of fisheries depleted
Due to threats such as overfishing, coastal development and harmful runoff, 75% of Hawai‘i's small-scale fisheries are depleted or in critical condition. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Hawaiians once sustained abundant coral reef fisheries and sophisticated fish pond aquaculture systems that supplied up to 2 million pounds of local fish per year. In comparison, aquaculture production of local shellfish and finfish in Hawai‘i today yields just 623,000 pounds. Combined with the loss of traditional fishing and resource management practices, the collapse of reefs and coastal fisheries contributes to a depleted supply of local, sustainable seafood for the people of Hawai‘i.
of seafood imported
Hawai‘i's food system is highly dependent on imports: 80% to 90% of food consumed in Hawai‘i is imported, including 63% of all commercially sold seafood. This is costly in both environmental and monetary terms. As seafood consumption increases and climate change impacts begin to be felt, Hawai‘i's reliance on costly foreign imports will increase unless there is a shift to local, sustainable food production.
of budget for management
Hawai‘i is the only coastal U.S. state that does not issue recreational marine fishing licenses — a missed opportunity for collecting catch data and for raising much-needed funds for fisheries management and enforcement. Currently, the state government invests only 1% of its budget in natural resource management, leading to significant oversight gaps.

Conservation International works to return Hawai‘i’s ocean to abundance, ensuring that a healthy environment will continue to benefit Hawai‘i, now and into the future. Learn More: www.conservation.org/hawaii


What are we doing?

Our work benefits local fishers, coastal communities, natural resource managers, seafood consumers, and everyone in Hawai‘i who seeks the return of an abundant ocean.


Read the 2020-2022 impact report


Improve smallscale fisheries management

Conservation International Hawai‘i works with fishing communities and policymakers to help Hawai‘i's fish populations thrive. At the community level, Conservation International Hawai‘i fosters responsible fishing and traditional knowledge­sharing by engaging local fishers and hosting educational family fishing camps. At the state level, we have worked with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to launch a Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit, which spurred a 90% compliance rate with fishing regulations (such as those that prohibit illegal netting) in a patrol area around the island of Maui. We also bring together communities, nonprofits and state agencies to support collaborative management of Hawai‘i's marine resources.


Restore coastal habitats and traditional fishponds

Conservation International Hawai‘i designs and implements ridge-to-reef solutions — holistic approaches that link land and coastal ecosystems. For example, we have worked with local community members to keep nearly 20 tons (or 2.5 dump trucks’ worth) of sediment from rainstorms off a reef near the island of Lānaʻi. Other projects include restoring seafood production in fish ponds.


Promote local, sustainable seafood

Working with the local seafood industry, Conservation International Hawai‘i is developing a program that tracks seafood from hook to plate. Because seafood certified as sustainable commands higher prices in the marketplace, this approach will create incentives for producers, restaurants and retailers to provide consumers with a safe, healthy supply of sustainably harvested seafood. To connect local fishers directly to consumers — and put seafood at the center of the local food economy — Conservation International Hawai‘i also launched the state’s first “community supported fishery.”


By the numbers

34 family fishing camps: In 13 communities on six islands, we led Lawai‘a ‘Ohana (family fishing) camps — opportunities for more than 2,000 participants to learn responsible fishing techniques and engage in natural resource management.

30,500 meals: A seafood security assessment determined that the Kīholo fishery provides around 30,500 meals every year and is worth $US 80,000. We secured a grant to conduct similar estimations in four other communities.

17 regulations, now 1 permit: We supported the development of a streamlined permitting system for Hawaiian fishpond restoration, repair and maintenance, consolidating 17 environmental regulations into 1 single permit.


2020-2022 Impact Report

The last three years were transformational for the Hawai‘i Program at Conservation International. This report summarizes the impact and progress made by the Hawai‘i team and its network of ocean stewardship and seafood industry partners from January 2020 to December 2022.

Download impact report


2018 Community Input Report

In 2016, Conservation International’s Hawai‘i program and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council jointly invited fishing experts and leaders to create an informal study group to co-discover whether a registry, permit, or license (RPL) system for non-commercial marine fishing could be possible in Hawaii. In December 2016, the study group members produced a report of what they had found and shared it with the public and decision makers. In 2018, Hawai‘i’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) informed the study group that it intended to pursue legislation to create a fee-based license system, but recognized that statewide outreach on the issues was still needed. DAR asked the study group to share its report findings with stakeholders, statewide.

Between June and December 2018, the study group members jointly designed and implemented a statewide effort to share the 2016 report findings with non-commercial fishers and other stakeholders and to collect the thoughts, concerns, questions, and suggestions shared during the outreach events. This 2018 Community Input Report summarizes the outreach effort and provides the fisher input and feedback received during that time.

FINAL REPORT / Appendix 1 – Recommendations from 2016 Study Group Report / Appendix 2 – Comments Small Meetings / Appendix 3 – Event Surveys / Appendix 4 – Community Input / Appendix 5 – Posters / Appendix 6 – Outreach / Appendix 7 – Media

The full report with appendices is available as a PDF below (196MB)

Download full report


2018 Hawaiʻi Ocean Health Index

Supported by local stakeholders, the Hawaiʻi Ocean Health Index is a scientifically robust index that measures ocean health for Hawaiʻi and integrates policy initiatives to support sustainable ocean management. The Ocean Health Index framework allows for repeatable assessments of the index goals over time to measure progress toward a common vision for a healthy ocean and sustainable ocean management for Hawaiʻi.

The 2018 assessment of the Hawaiʻi Ocean Health Index provides an opportunity to assess priority areas for strengthening ocean resource management. Six goals or priorities were assessed in the 2018 Hawaiʻi Ocean Health Index: Food Provision (Offshore Fisheries, Nearshore Fisheries and Mariculture), Coastal Protection, Biodiversity (Habitats and Species), Economies & Livelihoods, Sustainable Tourism and Sense of Place. The Main Hawaiian Islands received a score of 74, with Maui Nui having the highest regional Ocean Health Index score (79), followed by Kauiʻi and Niʻihau (76), Hawaiʻi (72), and Oʻahu (69). Ocean Livelihoods & Economies received the highest score, with Hawaiʻi’s ocean economy providing 16% of Hawaiʻi’s jobs and $18 billion annually in revenue. Goals that incorporated ocean and coastal habitat health or protection tended to score the lowest, highlighting the need to protect or restore these habitats. These goals are Biodiversity, Coastal Protection and Sustainable Tourism. Protecting and restoring these habitats is essential to sustaining our community and economy now and into the future.



Hawai‘i Carbon + Natural Capital: A Policy + Institutional Analysis for Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Approaches in Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i’s natural resources provide tangible benefits and major economic value to the 1.4 million people who live in the islands and the 8 million people who visit the islands every year. These benefits, or “ecosystem services,” include providing food, fresh water and coastal protection, contributing to a stable climate, securing cultural practices, and providing a home to a rich diversity of plants and animals. The current scale of investment in Hawai‘i’s natural resources has not been commensurate with the scale of the threats that face them, resulting in a need for Hawai‘i to explore alternative ways to finance conservation efforts.

This study — led by Conservation International Hawai‘i for a consortium of Hawai‘i-based businesses known as the Sustainability Business Forum — outlines the potential to create revenue-generating mechanisms in Hawai‘i that capture out-of-state investments, protect undeveloped land, encourage sustainable land-use practices and leverage existing financial resources.



Feasibility of a Non-Commercial Marine Fishing Registry, Permit, or License System in Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i’s fisheries are indispensable to the State’s environment, economy, food security, and culture. Hawai‘i’s fisheries require well-informed management with an adequate capacity to ensure that the resources exist for future generations. The Hawai‘i State Legislature has periodically examined what a non-commercial marine fishing license may be able to offer to address these needs. Hawai‘i remains, however, the only coastal U.S. state without a mandatory non-commercial marine fishing registry, permit, or license (“RPL”) system, because these previous attempts to enact an RPL system have been unsuccessful.

To better understand the issues relevant to an RPL system, Conservation International Hawai‘i and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council invited individuals from different fishing organizations and interest groups to serve as members of a Study Group to undertake a fresh examination of the RPL system issues.

This report explores the potential benefits and impacts of different forms of a non-commercial marine fishing registry, permit, or license system for the State of Hawai‘i



Our videos

See up close our work to improve fisheries and strengthen food security in Hawai‘i.

Over 60% of the seafood consumed in Hawai'i is imported from outside the islands. Conservation International staff and partners are using smart science, education, and traditional Hawaiian knowledge to improve local fisheries and restore seafood security for the well-being of the Hawaiian people — and the environment. | Learn more at: http://www.Conservation.org/HawaiiFishTrust Follow CI on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ConservationOrg Follow CI on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/conservation.intl http://www.conservation.org

The mission of Conservation International (CI) Hawaiʻi is to "hoʻi i ke kai momona", or return to an abundant ocean that will feed Hawaiʻi's people for generations to come. CI empowers community groups across Hawaiʻi to restore and manage their coastal fisheries in collaboration with the state of Hawaiʻi. | This video tells the story of Hui Aloha Kīholo, a group of people who care for Kīholo Bay on Hawaiʻi Island, and the work they have accomplished in partnership with CI Hawaiʻi to restore their fishery and assess its impact on local food security. Learn more: http://www.conservation.org/projects/Pages/hawaii-fish-trust.aspx

Opportunities for communities to host a Lawaiʻa ʻOhana camp in 2016 through CI-Hawaiʻi are limited, however CI is working with partners on raising funds to run more camps in 2017. We will provide notice of such 2017 opportunities on this site at the end of 2016. The Alahula ʻĀina Momona website (auamo.org) is currently under construction, please check back periodically for more information.

What can you do?

Support sustainable seafood

Check out how Hawai‘i's first “community supported fishery” connects consumers directly with local, responsible fishers.

© Dan Schmitt

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