HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige signed a new law on June 8, World Oceans Day, to preserve and protect Hawaii’s ocean waters and endangered marine resources.
HB1019 establishes a Hawaii Ocean Stewardship Special Fund that will provide more consistent and reliable support for restoring and managing these resources.
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“Hundreds of millions of visitors have enjoyed our magnificent ocean resources for decades without directly contributing to the management and protection of them,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “This new fund provides a framework to collect fees from visitors who use our waters.”
The $1 user fee per person will begin on Jan. 1, 2024, and will be collected by commercial ocean operators providing vessel-based activities to passengers or vessel-free services to customers. State officials say this new user fee could generate anywhere from $14 million to more than $30 million over 15 years, depending on tourism numbers.
“Our beautiful oceans and vibrant ecosystems set Hawaiʻi apart from other visitor destinations,” DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Administrator Brian Neilson commented. “Our oceans are under continuing threats from repeated coral bleaching events, pollution, marine debris, and unsustainable fishing practices. The economic importance of ocean tourism requires a steady investment for critical marine management. The Ocean Stewardship Special Fund is a win-win for reefs, residents, visitors, and the economy across the state.”
In addition to user fees, other sources will contribute to the fund, including state land lease revenues under DLNR jurisdiction that are used for aquatic resources.
State officials say this sustainable funding source is needed as Hawaii implements its Holomua: Marine 30×30 Initiative to effectively manage nearshore waters.