Our near shore fishery is in trouble. Today, these same resources are estimated to contribute $800 million in annual revenue to the state, with an added recreational, amenity, fishery, biodiversity, and educational value of $364 million per year.
The Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) is the only agency focused on enforcing laws that protect our natural and cultural resources. Everyone know DOCARE is woefully underfunded.
Given this broad scope of responsibility, and the large amount and variety of equipment, training, and manpower needed to effectively carry out DOCARE’s mission, it is clear that DOCARE has been critically underfunded for many years. A review of budget worksheets from the last ten years indicates past legislative appropriations for DOCARE have ranged from $6 to $8 million dollars annually; by contrast, the Honolulu Police Department – tasked with enforcing state and county laws in Honolulu county only, and primarily in developed or municipal areas – reported a budget of $224 million in 2010 alone. Clearly, much greater investment is necessary to ensure that DOCARE has the resources to ensure that the laws protecting our natural and cultural resources have actual teeth, and to relieve mounting community concerns regarding the lack of support for DOCARE’s important mission.
By restoring lost funding to DOCARE, this bill therefore provides a small but critical step in the right direction for investing in the conservation and protection of the resources that the Native Hawaiian community and the larger public rely upon.