Herbivore Management

What are herbivores and why are they important for coral reefs? 

Fish and other animals that primarily eat plants, seaweed, and algae are called herbivores. There are many species of herbivorous fishes in Hawaiʻi. The most commonly fished herbivores are parrotfish (uhu), chubs/rudderfish (nenue), and surgeonfish (manini, kole, kala, etc.). These species play many important roles in Hawaiʻi’s nearshore waters.

Bert Weeks

Coral reefs rely upon abundant populations of herbivores to remain healthy and resilient. Herbivorous fish maintain a balance in coral reef ecosystems by grazing the reef and preventing corals from becoming overgrown with algae. Read more about the importance of herbivores here.

Why are regulations needed?

Regulations are used to ensure responsible and sustainable fishing practices. By limiting the number and/or size of fish that are caught at one time, communities can benefit from more fish in the future and have plenty of food on the table for family and friends. Regulations ensure fair and sustainable fishing opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s present and future fishers.

How can I get involved?

Public scoping meetings were held in 2020 and 2021. Read about our Sustainable Herbivore Management Plan here.

The Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) held 16 initial scoping sessions, 10 in November of 2020 and 6 in March of 2021, to gather feedback and comments on herbivorous fishes and invertebrates. A series of public scoping sessions for updates to the Statewide Herbivore Management Strategy, including proposed rule amendments for select herbivorous species, were held in 2021 on December 11, 13, and 15th through Zoom. Frequently asked questions (FAQ) from the December scoping meetings can be found further below. DAR has also drafted a Sustainable Herbivore Management Plan and refined our initial ideas for an Herbivore Management Strategy, highlighting both statewide and place-based management priorities.

On December 8, 2022, DAR requested the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to approve holding statewide public hearings on the proposed rules amendments or select species of herbivorous fish, including minimum harvest size adjustments for manini and kole and bag limits for uhu and kala. Based on their feedback, DAR has drafted additional rule amendments with accommodations for the commercial fishery for uhu and kala. On May 12, 2023, DAR will request the BLNR to approve holding statewide public hearings on the updated proposed rules, including these commercial fishery accommodations. If the request is granted, the proposal will then be reviewed by the Small Business Regulatory Review Board and the Governor’s office, before public hearings are scheduled.

You can find DAR’s updated proposal submission to the BLNR on their website.
You can access the meeting agenda at the BLNR Meetings 2023 page.

Please sign up for our mailing list here to receive future updates, including notification when the public hearings are scheduled.

Bert Weeks

Are these island-wide rules or statewide rules?

This rulemaking effort is a statewide effort to address widespread department concerns about declining reef health and herbivorous fish populations.

The Holomua Marine Initiative will be working towards place-based planning for specific areas throughout the state with public input about the specific needs of particular places. If you would like to see different rules in your place, please participate in that process as well.

Any additional thoughts or questions? Talk to us!

Click below to read about our Sustainable Herbivore Management Plan

View Herbivore Information Flyer

View Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from the December 2021 Herbivore Scoping Sessions

Access and view previous public herbivore scoping notes below:

Statewide Herbivore Scoping Notes: December 2021

December 11, 2021

December 13, 2021

December 15, 2021

Online Feedback Summary Notes

Targeted/Hosted Scoping Notes: March 2021

Hawai‘i Island Fishers Scoping Notes

Kaua‘i Fishers Scoping Notes

Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA) Network Scoping Notes

Maui Fishers Scoping Notes

Native Hawaiian Gathering Rights Scoping Notes

O‘ahu Fishers Scoping Notes

General Public Scoping Notes: 2020

East Hawai‘i Scoping Notes

West Hawai‘i Scoping Notes

Kaua‘i Scoping Notes

Maui Scoping Notes

O‘ahu Scoping Notes