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State / Commonwealth / Territory - Marine Managed Areas (MMAs)


Highlighted MMAs: Marine Life Conservation Districts
HRS Ch. 190

Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCDs) are designed to conserve and replenish marine resources. MLCDs usually allow only limited fishing and other consumptive uses. They provide fish and other aquatic life with a protected area in which to grow and reproduce, and are home to a great variety of species. MLCDs are most popular as sites for snorkeling, diving and underwater photography.

MLCDs were introduced to Hawaii in the fall of 1967 with Hanauma Bay on Oahu. The resulting increase in fish populations was phenomenal, and the bay has become world famous. At the present time there are ten MLCDs statewide, and other sites are being considered as well. The districts are established by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) as authorized by Chapter 190 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes. Suggestions for areas to be included in the system may come from the state legislature or the public. The DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources conducts surveys of marine ecosystems throughout the state and may recommend MLCD status for areas that appear promising.

Once an area is recommended for designation, it is evaluated by the DAR with regard to a myriad of criteria. These include accessibility, marine life and future potential values, safety from a public usage standpoint, compatibility with adjoining area usage, and minimal environmental or ecological changes from the undisturbed natural state. In addition, the area should have clearly defined boundaries so that it is easily recognizable for compliance and enforcement. The area must be of sufficient size, large enough so that fish populations can be restored even with ongoing fishing activity outside the MLCD, but small enough so that fishers are not denied the use of vast fishing areas.

If the recommended area meets the criteria of a MLCD, the Division of Aquatic Resources conducts a thorough investigation consisting of bottom topography and fish surveys. Input from the public and governmental and private agencies is also considered. Public meetings are held, after which regulations for the area are drawn. A public hearing is held on the proposed regulations. Final approval is obtained from the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the governor.

Relevant Agencies/Programs:

  Department of Transportation
  Harbor Division

Department of Land and Natural Resources
  Division of Aquatic Resources

Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission

State Historic Preservation Division

Division of Forestry and Wildlife

Division of Boating and Recreation

Marine Managed Area Systems:


Harbor Management Plans, HRS §188-34
HI Marine Lab Refuge, HRS §188-36
West Hawaii Fishery Management Area, HRS Ch. 188F; >Act 306
Natural Area Reserve System, HRS Ch. 195
Fishery Management Areas, HRS Chapter 187-37
Ocean Recreation Management Areas, HRS §200-38
Wildlife Sanctuaries, HRS Ch. 195D
Fish Replenishment Areas (Western Hawaii), HRS Ch. 188F; >Act 306
Konohiki Fishing Grounds, HRS Ch. 187A-23, 188
Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas Admin. Rules 13-94; HRS Ch 188
Public Fishing Areas, HRS Ch 188
Shoreline Area, HRS §205A - Part III; Admin. Rules Title 13
Conservation Zones/Protective Subzones, HRS §205-5





Revised September 08, 2023 by the MPA Webmaster.
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