For many generations, the people of Hawaii depended on the ocean’s resources for daily subsistence, and some of us continue to do so today. Many of Hawaii’s residents are culturally and spiritually connected to the sea. Hawaii’s coastal zone provides jobs and fuels a tourism-based economy marketed for its clean beaches and water, coral reefs, and fresh island seafood. After work, we are drawn to the ocean to fish, surf, paddle, and barbeque on the beach with family and friends. Even if we don’t swim, we are rejuvenated by a walk on the beach, the feel of the trade winds, and the aesthetic beauty of our shores. The opportunity to enjoy the ocean’s bounty, if not every day, at least once in a while, is essential to our health and well-being.
While a vibrant and healthy ocean environment is essential to the quality of life we value in Hawai‘i, we face significant challenges in preserving the health of our ocean resources and the benefits they provide in our daily lives. Our use of the land is degrading coastal water quality and coral reef ecosystems. Intensified ocean recreational and commercial uses are creating resource use conflicts on public beaches and overexploitation of ocean resources. In addition, regional and global conditions beyond our direct control create new challenges, such as sea level rise, increased frequency and severity of storms, and marine debris.
The Hawai‘i Ocean Resources Management Plan (ORMP) charts a new course of action that calls for a change in our approach to natural and cultural resources management. Our current sector-based approach is not adequate to address the complex challenges we face now and will face in the future, despite the ongoing and substantive efforts of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private sector, communities, and individuals. Existing plans and programs are developed and implemented primarily by state and local government to manage individual resources. Community goals for area development and resource use are difficult to incorporate. As a result, management efforts are fragmented, with gaps and overlaps in implementation.
We need new perspectives on our relationship with the land, sea, and each other that will guide ocean resource management in Hawaii. Building on traditional Hawaiian management principles and lessons from past efforts, we need to move toward integrated and area-based approaches to natural and cultural resources management that require greater collaboration among jurisdictional authorities and catalyze community involvement and stewardship. The need for these changes was echoed in meetings and consultations held across the state to develop this ORMP. However, these changes are substantive and will take significant time, effort, and considerable thought to realize. This ORMP establishes management priorities for the next 5 years to embark on this new course of action to achieve the primary goal: to improve and sustain the ecological, cultural, economic, and social benefits we derive from ocean resources today and for future generations.