The Ocean and Coast
Hawaii consists of eight major islands and 124 minor islands. The state’s coastline measures 1,052 miles and submerged lands cover around 2.8 million acres. The state of Hawaii owns nearly all submerged lands, the overlying water column, and surface waters beginning at the high water (wash-up) line and extending seaward three nautical miles.
Marine Conservation Agreements
Completed in 2005, a cursory analysis of the potential to implement Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in Hawaii revealed several positive findings:
- A lease of submerged lands in Hawaii can convey property rights in submerged lands, the water column, and water surface.
- By law, leases for scientific or educational purposes are allowable (conservation and environmental protection are not specifically addressed in the Act).
- Submerged lands leases cannot impair konohiki fishing rights and are likely subject to other traditional Hawaiian gathering rights.
- Proposed leases are evaluated in terms of impacts to existing uses of the marine area, including navigation, fishing, and recreation.
In addition to these initial findings regarding the potential for conservation leasing, the only known exception to the state ownership of all submerged lands is in areas where private entities own fishponds that lie below the high water line. This private ownership may represent areas of potential collaboration for restoration and conservation purposes.
Because an exhaustive law, policy, or spatial data analysis regarding MCAs has not yet been completed, we do not have a clear picture of what is legally possible, nor do we have a clear understanding of the ownership and leasing patterns across the coastal landscape and seascape. As such, organizations wishing to MCAs should undertake site-specific assessments or work with state agency staff to evaluate opportunities statewide. IF organizations pursue MCAs in Hawaii, several local, state, and federal authorizations may be required. The information that follows provides context for and information regarding possible authorization needs.
Submerged Lands, Beaches, and Shoreline Development
Submerged lands in Hawaii include all lands lying between the upper reaches of the waves on the shore and the seaward extent of the state's jurisdictional limits. The Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) of the Department of Land and Natural Resources manages the publicly and privately zoned Conservation Districts of Hawaii, as well as the beaches and submerged lands of the state. The OCCL serves several functions for the state, including the leasing of submerged lands, coastal zone permitting, and beach restoration. The OCCL reviews and administers Conservation District Use Applications (CDUA) necessary for leasing submerged lands. Because the OCCL manages such a wide-range of activities within the coastal zone, anyone interested in activities here should contact the office.
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources
Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 131
P.O. Box 621
Honolulu, Hawaii 96809
The Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program facilitates the management of the coastal zone between federal, state, and local government agencies.
Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program
P.O. Box 2359
Honolulu, Hawaii 96804
The Clean Water Branch of the Department of Health is responsible for all coastal and inland water quality concerns within the state. Conservation projects that may directly or indirectly affect water quality should contact the Clean Water Branch.
Hawaii Department of Health
Clean Water Branch - Environmental Management Division
919 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 301
P.O. Box 3378
Honolulu, HI 96801-3378
Fish and Wildlife
The Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), manages aquatic ecosystems and resources. DAR is responsible for issuing permits for commercial and recreational fishing, and certain aquaculture activities. Conservation projects that may directly or indirectly affect aquatic ecosystems and resources should contact the DAR.
The Aquaculture Development Program (ADP) of the Department of Agriculture is responsible for promoting and supporting aquaculture in the state. In 1999, the state legislature amended existing law to allow long-term leasing of state waters for aquaculture. Permits for aquaculture are authorized through several state agencies, including the Division of Aquatic Resources and the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (see above for addresses). The ADP has extensive information resources and coordinates permits with other state agencies.