Damon v. Hawaii, 194 U. S. 154
followed to effect that, under the Hawaiian Act of 1846, "of Public
and Private Right of Piscary," the owner of an ahapuaa is entitled
to the adjacent fishing ground within the reef, and that the
statute created vested rights therein within the saving clause of
the organic act of the Territory repealing all laws of the Republic
of Hawaii conferring exclusive fishing rights.
The Land Commission of Hawaii was established to determine title
to lands against the Hawaiian government, and, as that Commission
rightly treated fisheries as not within its jurisdiction, the
omission to establish the right to a fishery before that Commission
does not prejudice the right of the owner thereto.
The facts are stated in the opinion.
Page 200 U. S. 256
MR. JUSTICE Holmes delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a proceeding to establish the plaintiffs' rights to a
several fishery of the kind described in Damon v. Hawaii,
194 U. S. 154
comes here under the same circumstances as that case did. The
fishery in question is a sea fishery within the reef in Waialae
Iki, island of Oahu, and is claimed by metes and bounds in the
complaint. The plaintiffs are owners of the adjacent land under a
royal patent following upon an award of the Land Commission, and
the only difference between this case and the former one is that,
in this, the fishery is not described in the royal patent, and
that, apart from the question of prescription, upon which we shall
say nothing, the plaintiffs have to rely upon the statutes alone.
They offered evidence at the trial that, before the action of the
King in 1839, those under whom the plaintiffs claim title had
enjoyed, from time immemorial, rights similar to those set out in
the statutes, and also that they had been in continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession of the konohiki right for sixty years.
They offered, in short, to prove that their predecessor in title
was within the statutes, and therefore owned the fishery, it not
being disputed that, if he did, the plaintiffs own it now. The
judge rejected the evidence, and entered judgment for the
defendant, and, on exceptions, this judgment and that in Damon v.
Hawaii were sustained at the same time, in one opinion, by the
supreme court. 14 Haw. 465.
We deem it unnecessary to repeat the ground of our intimation in
the former case, that the statutes there referred to created vested
rights. We simply repeat that, in our opinion, such was their
effect. The fact that they neither identified the specific grantees
nor established the boundaries is immaterial when their purport as
a grant or confirmation is decided. It is enough that they afforded
the means of identification, and that presumably the boundaries can
be fixed by reference to existing
Page 200 U. S. 257
facts, or the application of principles which have been laid
down in cases of more or less similar kind.
The omission of the plaintiffs' predecessor in title to
establish his right to the fishery before the Land Commission does
not prejudice their case. See Kenoa v. Meek,
6 Haw. 63.
That commission was established to determine the title to lands as
against the Hawaiian government. In practice, it treated the
fisheries as not within its jurisdiction, and it would seem to have
been right in its view. See Akeni v. Wong Ka Mau,