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Sen. Schatz Proposes Papahānaumokuākea Expansion

June 16, 2016, 9:20 AM HST
* Updated June 16, 11:49 AM
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United States Senator Brian Schatz. US Senate photo.

United States Senator Brian Schatz.
US Senate photo.

US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) sent his proposal to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, following the tenth anniversary of President George W. Bush’s executive order that established the monument’s original boundaries.

At 582,578 square miles, the proposal would create the world’s largest marine protected area by expanding the PMNM west of 163° West Longitude out to the full 200 nautical miles of the US Exclusive Economic Zone, while preserving access for local fishermen on Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau by maintaining the current boundaries of the PMNM east of 163° West Longitude.

The proposal would also secure an increased role for managing the PMNM for Native Hawaiians.

Schatz, a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, and his staff met with Gov. David Ige, Sen. Ron Kouchi, Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to discuss their concerns.

With their feedback, Schatz developed the proposal sent to the president.

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“Like the Polynesians who first settled these islands, we can balance the management of this unique natural habitat and its historic artifacts with the needs of the human population,” Gov. Ige said. “Sen. Schatz has addressed many of the concerns I’ve heard about the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and has proposed reasonable accommodations for local fishers who are helping to feed our families. I look forward to the public process as it moves forward.”

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Key points include:

· Stopping expansion at 163° West Longitude so Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau residents will have access to all of their existing fishing areas—including the particularly active fishing spot near NOAA Weather Buoy 51101.

· Recognizing the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a co-trustee of the PMNM on equal footing with the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, and the State of Hawai‘i.

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· Proposing a significant expansion that supports both Hawai‘i residents and the environment and that will inspire commitments from government managers, philanthropic organizations, and individuals to support the expansion.

“The best available science indicates that expanding the PMNM will strengthen an ecosystem that sustains tuna, swordfish, sharks, seabirds, sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals,” Sen. Schatz wrote to the president. “[T]he expanded region contains significant bio-cultural resources and archaeological sites that further justify use of the Antiquities Act.”

Big Island Now stock photo. June 2016

Big Island Now stock photo. June 2016

“A thoughtful expansion of the PMNM will continue Hawai‘i’s long history of sustainable use of the land and oceans into the future, and help ensure that we can give our children the legacy of a healthy, vibrant Pacific Ocean,” Sen. Schatz wrote.

“[I]f you agree that [this proposal] has merit,” Sen. Schatz continued in his letter to the president, “I respectfully request that you pursue a course of engagement, especially on Kaua‘i and on O‘ahu, which would allow the public an appropriate opportunity to provide written comments, oral testimony, or both before you determine whether to exercise your authority under the Antiquities Act.”

To read Senator Schatz’s full proposal, click here.

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