Hawai'i’s coastal fisheries have declined dramatically in the last 50 years and overfishing has reduced many nearshore fish populations to levels below which they can replenish themselves. Hawai'i is the most isolated archipelago in the world and so cannot rely on fish abundance from other areas to replenish its reefs. Enough adult fish must be left to reproduce and sustain their populations. This number is hard to determine so managers must take precautionary measures to make sure there are enough fish in the future. Setting areas aside for protection is one way of doing this.

There are many different types of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) depending on the focus of conservation- each will have different rules and regulations. Some have few regulations and allow certain types of fishing whereas in others fishing may be banned. Marine Protected Areas must involve the support and involvement of fishers, local communities, conservationists, scientists and governmental agencies.

A Marine Protected Area can be defined as: “an important marine, estuarine or anchialine area established by law or regulation to protect, enhance and conserve part or all of the habitat and aquatic life within its boundaries” (DLNR).

Marine Protected Areas:

Marine Protected Areas in Hawaii
See Rules and Regulations for details and prohibitions in the MPA’s in and around Puako.

Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCD’s)
The aim of MLCD’s is to conserve and replenish marine resources, allowing limited fishing and other consumptive uses and minimizing human impacts. Fish and other species within the MLCD can grow and reproduce undisturbed. These sites are often popular sites for diving and snorkelling.

 Fishery Management Areas (FMA’s)
FMA’s aim to s ustain aquatic resources for fishing, reduce habitat damage from fishing manage resource allocation and sustain fishing resources. The specific rules for FMA’s may vary in different locations.

Fish Replenishment Areas FRA’s
There are nine Fish Replenishment Areas (FRA’s) in West Hawaii, covering 35% of the shoreline. Commercial aquarium fish collection is prohibited within these areas. FRA’s have proven to be very successful, reducing conflicts between aquarium collectors and other reef users and increasing popular aquarium fish such as the Yellow Tang.

To find out about Humpback Whale protection in Hawaii see The Humpback National Whale Sanctuary.

Visit the Department of Land and Natural Resources Website.

Photographs: Robert Shallenberger and Andrew Walsh.