Kauai's humpback sanctuary expansion stirring emotions - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Kauai's humpback sanctuary expansion stirring emotions

Malia Chow, NOAA Malia Chow, NOAA

KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's humpback whale population is on an upswing from about three thousand in the 70's to 17-thousand by the year 2015.

That's why some people say the government's new proposal to expand sanctuary zones around the state is not only unnecessary, but a bureaucratic overload. We all love those majestic humpbacks, but what about humans?

A group on Kauai is worried a federal proposal to protect more marine life will mean more restrictions for people, possibly adding speed limits for boats, making certain reefs off-limits, hurting fishermen, and tour operators, like Mel Wills. Mr. Wills says, "They can't promise us that none of those will happen. In a few short weeks, I have over 801 signatures on statements and petitions against the sanctuary intentions.

Wills and his supporters want the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand it's public comment period, which is set to end this Saturday. NOAA policy analyst, Malia Chow, says after twenty-one public meetings in the last six months, that's not going to happen, and people shouldn't worry. Chow says, "We do not plan to shut out access to different ocean users in the sanctuary and we try to come up with what is the best solution for how we can all work together. You know Hawaii is a small place. We have to get along and work together."

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Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary's new management plan could expand the zone to cover the entire state and add protections for monk seals, turtles, and even corals. Working with the community, NOAA will create a draft plan by next year. The final plan, subject to public review, will be ready in about five years.

Malia Chow of NOAA states: "I just want people to know were still very early in the process. Were still in the listening phase and asking people what they think."

It sounds good, but on Kauai, critics are doubtful they'll be heard. They're also distrustful that the government is working for the people.

Wills says, "Once they have that kind of power, and more laws are piled on, we all know how the federal government tends to work sometimes. In this instance, we believe it's going the wrong way, for the peoples' interest.

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