by Andrew Walden
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ (OHA) so-called ceded lands payments are looking more and more like taxes or fees. Is OHA now trying to hook some ‘ceded lands’ money from Hawaii shoreline fishermen?
Two OHA representatives participated in a recent DLNR ‘Study Group’ to evaluate the “Feasibility of a Noncommercial Marine Fishing License in Hawai‘i.” The December 2 study group report reiterated the perennial “irksome nuisance” idea of requiring fishing licenses to fish from shore.
Since shorecasting is conducted above submerged lands which, according to the the 1990 Hawaii Supreme Court decision in Napeahi vs Paty, are ceded lands, we immediately thought that OHA might be on to a new revenue stream.
The DLNR is second only to the State Harbors Division in Act 178 ceded lands payments to OHA. According to a DLNR report to the Legislature, DLNR in FY2015 forked over $4.38M—31% of which comes from the gross revenues of DOBOR marinas—which are mostly built over submerged lands.
OHA may be able to pick boaters’ pockets, but it turns out shore-bound fishermen are protected. According to the Study Group report (Appendix E, p 12-13) not only State law—which could easily be swept aside—but also federal law prohibits the diversion of sport fishing license fees to non-fishing purposes. The 1950 Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, known as the DJ Act, provides Hawaii with $3.5M per year. As the study authors explain:
These DJ funds provide approximately 40% of the annual budget for DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). To remain eligible for DJ funds, a state cannot divert revenues from sport fishing license fees for purposes other than the administration of the state’s fish and wildlife agency.
Thus shoreline fishermen join Hawaii’s airports on the list of so-called ceded lands properties protected from OHA’s money grab.
Related: Harbors Division Fee Hike designed to boost $77M OHA Slush Fund?