East Hawaii News

NOAA Seeks Comment on Sanctuary Expansion

March 25, 2015, 11:49 AM HST
* Updated March 25, 11:50 AM
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NOAA has announced its proposed rule to expand the size of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, along with expanding the focus of the sanctuary to include multiple marine species.

The announcement comes following an extensive collaboration of partners, including non-governmental organization, businesses, scientists, and community members.

Comments are currently being accepted from the public on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement until June 19.

“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, sanctuary superintendent. “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.”

While reviewing the sanctuary’s management plan in 2012, the sanctuary advisory council’s working groups determined that although humpback whales should continue to be the main emphasis in sanctuary protection, an increased and urgent need is necessary to take a more integrated approach to marine resource management.

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NOAA’s ecosystem-based management approach is backed by science and is consistent with the traditional Hawaiian approach to managing natural and cultural resources. Working with the State of Hawai’i, local communities and a variety of stakeholders, NOAA works to protect Hawai’i natural and cultural resources.

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In addition to expanding the marine sanctuary’s focus, the proposed rules include a boundary expansion that adds 235 square miles of state and federal waters. The boundary extension, which includes waters around Oahu, Kaua’i, and Ni’ihau would bring the total to 1,601 square miles of boundary area. The expansion would allow the sanctuary to have new opportunities to work closely with communities on priority resource protection issues.

A final management plan and environmental impact statement will be prepared following the public comment period, under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Meetings will be held throughout the state for members of the public to learn more about the proposal and submit comments. One of the meetings will be held on the Big Island at the Kealakehe High School Cafeteria on May 7 between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

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Individuals who wish to submit comments may also do so through one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2015-0028

Mail: Malia Chow, Sanctuary Superintendent; 1845 Wasp Blvd; Building 176; Honolulu, HI 96818.

Those interested in more information may visit the sanctuary’s website.

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