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Congressman Joins Chorus Decrying Hawai‘i Bay Closure Proposal

December 18, 2021, 2:00 PM HST
* Updated December 18, 1:58 PM
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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz called on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to hold off on a new proposed rule for time-area closures that would bar several bays on Hawai‘i Island and Maui.

The proposed rule would close four Big Island bays from 6 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day, and restrict local ocean access to residents during those hours. The idea received a flood of pushback from scores of residents last week during a public hearing. On Saturday, Dec. 18, Schatz, a Hawai‘i Democrat, joined the chorus against the measure via a press release issued by his office.

“The proposed rule will foreseeably deny Hawai‘i residents and visitors access to the ocean, to protect dolphins that are already strongly protected under another, separate rule that went into effect on Oct. 28, 2021,” Schatz wrote in his letter to NOAA Administrator and Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Rick Spinrad. “I believe NOAA owes it to the people of Hawai‘i to halt further action on time-area closures, and focus instead on how to implement its Oct. 28th rule.”

The Oct. 28 rule is the recent rule change that restricts people from getting within 50 feet of a dolphin. The proposed time-closure rule is meant to protect dolphins who use the bays to rest, socialize, raise their young and avoid predators. Human activity can affect their behaviors negatively and human presence in a bay can prevent the nocturnal hunters from entering it to rest.

The affected Hawai‘i Island bays are Kealakekua Bay, Hōnaunau Bay, Kauhakō Bay, and Makako Bay.

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Public comment on the matter is open through January.

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Schatz’s full letter can be found below and is available here.

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