After nearly five years of work, 10 public hearings throughout Hawaii and the submission of 12,375 pieces of testimony, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is proposing to expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, both in terms of geographic size and mission.
“This proposal is the result of a multi-year collaborative effort that involved considerable input from all sectors of the local community,” said Malia Chow, the sanctuary superintendent, in a Mar. 25 NOAA news release. “We welcome further public review and input into our proposed new management plan as we move forward with the important job of managing this special place which is critical to both the regional economy and communities in Hawai‘i.”
According to the voluminous Management Plan Review Documents (posted online in March), NOAA is proposing that the sanctuary move away from an entity designed to protect a single species (in this case, humpback whales) and more towards what it’s calling “ecosystem-based management,” which I take as meaning that it would protect all the species (or “resources,” in NOAA-speak) in the sanctuary.
“The ecosystem-based management approach, as proposed, is backed by science and is consistent with the traditional Hawaiian approach to managing natural and cultural resources,” states the NOAA news release. “NOAA works closely with the state of Hawai‘i, local communities and various stakeholders to protect Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.”
To facilitate this, the sanctuary boundaries would expand to include 235.2 additional square miles (see accompanying map for where the expansions would take place). And to better reflect the new mission, the sanctuary name itself would change, to the “Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary–Na Kai ‘Ewalu” (the later portion of the name is a Hawaiian reference to the waters that both divide and connect the Hawaiian islands).
The Sanctuary will hold public hearings around Hawaii starting later this month on their proposed changes. Here’s the schedule for the Maui County hearings:
● April 29, 5:30-8pm: Kihei Youth Center, 131 S. Kihei Rd.
● April 30, 5-7:30pm: Kaunoa Senior Center, 788 Pauoa St., Lahaina
● May 1, 4-6:30pm: Lanikeha Community Center, 2200 Farrington Ave., Kaunakakai
● May 2, 9:30am-12pm: Lanai High and Elementary School, 555 Fraser Ave., Lanai City
Or you can mail written comments here: Malia Chow, Sanctuary Superintendent; 1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176; Honolulu, HI 96818.
Click here for a brief executive summary of NOAA’s proposed changes.