Hoku Kaʻaekuahiwi Pousima

Hoku Kaʻaekuahiwi Pousima | Regional Policy Analyst

NOAA ONMS Pacific Islands Region

What are your basic job duties?

I am responsible for providing policy advice to staff and leadership and supporting the implementation of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. This looks different from day to day as some days we are focusing more on the processes outlined in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and how those support NOAA and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries missions, and some days are spent strategizing how to communicate our work to partners and stakeholders and creating the space for us all to work together towards bettering our ocean.

What NOAA project have you enjoyed working on the most?

I was a part of co-authoring “Mai Ka Pō Mai, A Native Hawaiian Guidance Document,” and I think that will always be a really special initiative no matter where my career takes me. Being a part of the team that got to work with community and managers to capture the value of Native Hawaiian knowledge systems and values and how critical they are to the management of Hawaiʻi and her natural and cultural resources was really a crossroads of all things I am passionate about culminating in one.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

In my last year of law school I worked as a public policy legal intern at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Papahānaumokuākea Program. I was intrigued by the co-management structure and the function of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) within that structure. I had taken a few months off to study for the bar and a policy position was advertised with NOAA Fisheries to support the Marine National Monuments Program. I started in that position one week after I took the bar and never really looked back to traditional lawyering, but rather, found my purpose in connecting agency and community.

NOAA has provided me with many professional development opportunities, from details to leadership trainings to promotions. I have been so fortunate to learn the ropes and to have landed a position with NOAA Sanctuaries, as the mission really aligns with my passion of bringing community into our process and uplifting culture and place-based knowledge in a meaningful way.

What if any challenges have you faced as a woman in an ocean-related career?

Coming from a community whose lives are centered around the ocean and having so many wāhine (women) role models who have paved the way for ocean stewardship in our communities, I actually wouldnʻt identify any of my challenges in an ocean-related career as being gender-based. I would identify most challenges arising from misalignment in how we place value on knowledge systems and how we view places and our natural and cultural resources.

In Hawaiʻi, when we look to our land, ocean, and natural resources, we have an understanding that we each have a responsibility to care for and advocate for our living environment as if it was an ancestor. We donʻt view ourselves as owners of land, managers of natural resources, or exercising jurisdiction. We view ourselves as stewards of these places and caretakers for our lifetime so that our kids and grandchildren may have the same connections and responsibilities to our island home that we did and so that our culture and communities may thrive.