LIHUE — Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said they support the Kauai County Council’s call to lawmakers to stop initiatives regulating coastal and marine resources around the island of Niihau.
Carvalho recently wrote to Abercrombie expressing his surprise and concern about the introduction of proposals “with no prior discussion with our county government officials, or with others on Kauai who would be impacted.”
“These issues involve the interests of many stakeholders and are worthy of a full and frank discussion among all,” Carvalho wrote.
Last week, Abercrombie replied, saying he supports Carvalho’s request.
“I have requested that our Administration not take any affirmative action on this issue unless and until we have first collaborated and provided a process for the community to be heard,” Abercrombie wrote.
The letters were in response to a resolution passed earlier this month by the Kauai County Council related to the “Forbidden Island,” which asked for legislators and the Department of Land and Natural Resources to cease initiatives aimed at regulating around the island.
The resolution was prompted by a slew of bills introduced this session in both the House and Senate — proposals from establishing no-fishing zones and regulating the harvesting of opihi, to making the island a new, independent county from Kauai and granting an island resident exclusive konohiki rights to control fishing.
Many of the bills were deferred. Others were amended or replaced with entirely different language.
Still, the momentum around governing the island led the council, mayor and governor to weigh in.
In his letter, Abercrombie addressed several of the initiatives. He pointed out that while most bills appear headed for defeat, it was only 36 days into a 60-day legislative session, and that “nothing is final until the final day.”
“Until that time, please know that I support reasonable fishing as an essential part of our state’s overall need to provide for our own local food and minimize our reliance on imported food sources,” Abercrombie wrote.
While Niihau residents and the Robinson family, who owns the island, have said the resources on Niihau are being decimated by outsiders, Kauai fishermen say such claims have no basis and are nothing more than a way of gaining public sympathy to close the island’s nearshore waters.
Westside fisherman Greg Holzman, who has been an outspoken opponent of the legislative bills, said he was happy to see the governor address the situation.
“We’re not totally out of the woods,” Holzman said. “But at least the governor has said we need to be part of the process.”
Located 17.5 miles southwest of Kauai, Niihau is the seventh largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands and has been privately owned by the Sinclair and Robinson families since 1864.
• Chris D’Angelo, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.