NOAA proposes expanding focus of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

NOAA proposes expanding focus of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

After extensive collaboration with partners including non-governmental organizations, businesses, scientists, and other members of the community, a dramatic change is being proposed for the agency in charge of protecting Hawaii's humpback whales.

NOAA announced on Wednesday that the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary wants to expand its focus to help all marine species in its proected waters and not just whales.

If approved, the agency's name would change, taking Humpback whales out of the title to add Na Kai Ewalu to represent the ocean around Hawaii's eight islands.

The proposed change would allow the federal government to be more involved in protecting the marine ecosystem, instead of adding new restrictions. The proposal also includes a boundary expansion that would add 235 square miles of state and federal waters around O'ahu, Kaua'i, and Ni'ihau, bringing the total sanctuary area to 1,601 square miles. This would also provide the sanctuary with new opportunities to work closely with communities on priority resource protection issues.

"I think it's important to understand that these resources are added to the sanctuary doesn't mean that the federal government owns these resources," said sanctuary superintendent Malia Chow. "These are resources that are held in public trust by the people of hawaii. We're just facilitating a process that gives people a voice."

The marine sanctuary has also decided to single out Maunalua Bay in East O'ahu as a place that needs special protection, banning boats from dropping anchor on the reef and any other kind of discharge into the bay.

While the proposal is not a done deal, members of the public are invited to submit comments to the agency on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement now until June 19.

Several meetings are planned for the public to learn more about the proposal and submit comments.

Meetings are scheduled for:

  • April 27, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: Sunset Beach Recreation Center, 59-540 Kamehameha Highway, Hale'iwa
  • April 28, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: Honolulu Waldorf School, 350 Ulua Street, Honolulu
  • April 29, 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.: Kihei Youth Center, 131 S. Kihei Road, Kihei
  • April 30, 5:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.: Kaunoa Senior Center, 788 Pauoa St., Lahaina
  • May 1, 4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.: Lanikeha Community Center, 2200 Farrington Ave., Kaunakakai
  • May 2, 9:30 a.m. - 12 noon: Lana'i High and Elementary School, 555 Fraser Avenue, Lana'i City
  • May 4, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: Kilauea Elementary School Cafeteria, 2440 Kolo Road, Kilauea
  • May 5, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.: For people residing on and landowners of Ni'ihau Island Ni'ihau School Cafeteria, Puuwai Village, Ni'ihau
  • May 6, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: King Kaumuali'i Elementary School Cafeteria, 4380 Hanama'ulu Road, Lihu'e
  • May 7, 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.: Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, 74-5000 Puohulihuli Street, Kailua-Kona

Comments may also be submitted by any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: click HERE. 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.

For more information on the proposal, visit the sanctuary's website HERE.

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