Here's an example of the mindset we're seeing in some of the newest Hawaii arrivals, who are all about lifestyle, but not so into local culture:
Gone, apparently, are the days when folks tried to fit into the local lifestyle. Now they want it changed. Go away? Who?
In this case, the author is a former bank officer from Anchorage who has a vacation rental condo in Lahaina. Her profile states: We moved here to Maui 4 years ago to enjoy the great outdoors, the weather is great here 365 days a year, even in stormy weather we have shorts on!
Despite being from Alaska, she is apparently unfamiliar with subsistence practices and the rights of natives and others to engage in them on public beaches.
Speaking of fishing, there's been a lot of talk recently about Obama using executive powers to approve a four-fold expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. If approved, it would become the largest protected area on the planet, encompassing some 200 nautical miles.
The proposal includes naming the ever-so-efficient and nonpolitical Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a co-trustee, a provision sure to increase both costs and chaos, with no appreciable returns.
Commercial fishing currently is prohibited in the monument, so the prospect of its expansion has alarmed the longline fishing industry. They've expressed concerns about the potential financial impact on those who fish for prized ahi, as well as further government restrictions on where they can fish.
Some lawmakers, including Kauai Sen. Ron Kouchi and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, have asked Obama not to do it, while some well-known kanaka, like navigator Nainoa Thompson, support the expansion.
In the midst of this debate comes an article in The Atlantic that actually mentions the NWHI. It tells of how Joshua Cinner, a social scientist in Australia, worked with reef scientists to compile data on 2,514 reefs from 46 nations. As the article reports:
And their surprising results are upending traditional assumptions about what makes a healthy reef.
Contrary to what you might think, the bright spots weren’t all remote reefs, where humans were absent or fishing was banned. Instead, most were home to lots of people, who rely heavily on the corals and who frequently fished. They weren’t leaving the corals and fish alone; instead, they had developed social norms and institutions that allowed them to manage the reefs responsibly.
“Reefs are hugely threatened. I saw my own field site melt down and completely die,” says Julia Baum from the University of Victoria. “The danger is that we lose hope, or we feel like there’s nothing to be done. That’s why this study is so important. It shows that the end state of people relying on and using coral reefs doesn’t have to be reef degradation.”
Some remote sites like parts of the north-west Hawaiian islands, which have long been textbook examples of how pristine reefs can be when fishing is rare, emerged as dark spots. Meanwhile, most of the 15 bright spots were in fished and populated areas, and near both rich and poor countries.
“Conservationists typically look for the highest absolute biomass and the places that are most untouched. These are the gems, so let’s stop people from going there,” says Cinner. “We looked for places that had more fish than they should, given the condition. Some had biomass below the global mean, so they weren’t pristine, but they were doing better than they should be.”
The preliminary analyses suggest that policy-makers might serve reefs best by helping people live with them sustainably, whether by instilling systems like property rights or getting people more invested in their local reefs. “There’s been a narrative about local involvement but it’s often very token,” says Cinner. “Our research says that’s not enough. Locals need more than just buying into something that an NGO wants to do. I think there are opportunities for conservation organizations to invest in things that allow for communities to creatively confront their own challenges.”
Such efforts stand in stark contrast to the predominant tactic for saving the seas: establishing large marine protected areas, where fishing and other human activities are restricted. “A lot of countries are going about that by marking out large areas of ocean in areas with no people,” says Baum. “It’s politically easy, as opposed to having to do a lot of really complex marine spatial planning.”
The answer, the article says, lies in "learning from areas that faced down their problems and won. We don’t get to live in an ideal world. We have to live in this one, and this one is full of people."
Just something to think about.