The Gov. David Ige has signed a bill into the that establishes a fee on ocean tour operators and other marine business activities to aid in the ocean conservation efforts. The Hawaii Ocean Stewardship Special Fund was proposed in the Hawaii House of Representatives this year. The objective of these funds were to contribute to the restoration, conservation, protection and management of the state’s marine resources.
The collection of the new fee will go into effect from the first day of 2024. The law establishes a user fee of $1 per person, collected by commercial ocean operators providing everything from sunset cruises to snorkel and scuba excursions.
“Hundreds of millions of visitors have enjoyed our magnificent ocean resources for decades without directly contributing to the management and protection of them,” Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources chairwoman Suzanne Case said in a statement. “This new fund provides a framework to collect fees from visitors who use our waters.”
The new fee is expected to generate from $14 million to $30 million over 15 years, depending on the tourism numbers. State land lease revenues from lands and facilities under DLNR jurisdiction also will contribute to the fund.
“Our beautiful oceans and vibrant ecosystems set Hawaii apart from other visitor destinations,” DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator Brian Neilson said in a statement.
“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.”
This sustainable funding source is critical as the state implements its Holomua: Marine 3030 Initiative to effectively manage near-shore waters, according to the DLNR. The initiative establishes 30% of near-shore waters as a network of marine management areas to benefit fisheries and ecosystem resilience by the year 2030.