Kauai filmmaker’s work will be on display at festival


“There’s not a lot of good news about Hawaii’s fisheries, but this is a really good story,” Teresa “Teri” Tico, a Kauai attorney and documentary filmmaker, said about her short film “Fishing Pono: Living in Harmony with the Sea.”

The 26-minute film, made for PBS Hawaii, will be screened along with “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Palace Theater in Hilo. The double-feature is part of the Hawaii International Film Festival, which opens Wednesday and runs through Oct. 29.

Tico, a part-time Hilo resident and the film’s co-producer, went to Molokai with director Mary Lambert to investigate what modern-day Hawaiians, led by Kelson “Mac” Poepoe, are doing to ensure their nearshore fisheries survive for future generations.

“We have a narrator, Mauna Kea Trask, a young Hawaiian who wants to find out if what he heard about Molokai fisheries is true, that they were able to restore their fishing grounds using traditional practices,” Tico said. “So we went there and we met them and we found out what they did to bring their fish back and then we talked to some other people on some other islands, like Kauai, at Haena, where the Hawaiian fishermen are following the model that Mac Poepoe set up on Molokai to bring back their nearshore fisheries.”

A United Nations study found that global fish populations are on the brink of collapse, with more than 70 percent of the world’s fish either fully exploited or deleted. Tico said that Poepoe told her it’s not too late to reverse the trend and his advice is, “Go back to the old ways, man.”

“He was able to convince the community that they had to use these traditional methods if they wanted to have any fish to eat in the future. And it’s a successful program that has been recognized by the state,” Tico said.

“What they’re doing is monitoring the fishing grounds, and when a species is becoming too limited, they’ll have a kapu season,” she continued. “They never take the fish with eggs. They don’t take the biggest fish; they don’t take the smallest fish. These are all traditional conservation methods that go back hundreds of years. They’re very simple; they make a lot of sense. But who’s going to do it when people can go out and catch fish and sell them for a lot of money. But on Molokai, where they have more of a subsistence lifestyle, they do it, or they wouldn’t have food.

“It’s a great story. There are so many environmental films that are about doom and gloom and rising sea levels and climate change and melting glaciers. And I just thought I want to do a story about an environmental problem we have that somebody has done something to turn the tide, so to speak, and improve the situation. And Mac Poepoe on Molokai has done that, and he’s a great role model.”

The film, two years in the making, will air on PBS Hawaii in early 2014.

“What I learned is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to save our planet,” Tico said. “It just takes will; it just takes the intent to follow through with what you know is good for the planet. … Basically, that’s all it takes. It’s so simple; it’s so logical.”

An HIFF pass for all film screenings is $75. For individual films, regular Palace prices apply. Call 934-7010 to order tickets with a credit card or visit the box office between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit hilopalace.com.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.