By Jolanie Martinez
HNN Summer Intern
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Government, community and business leaders rallied together at the state Capitol on Tuesday to address their opposition to the proposed expansion of a national marine monument.
Among those who spoke at the rally were former Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi, former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Peter Apo and other community and business organizations.
On June 15, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sent a proposal to President Barack Obama to expand Papahanaumokuakea, a fishing sanctuary and Marine National Monument, from 140,000 square miles to 583,000 square miles. If the expansion is implemented, PMNM will be the largest marine conservation in the world.
During the rally, concerns against the expansion were shared that included the federal government's rush to begin the project and the lack of effort in gathering the public's opinion.
"I feel it's unconscionable for us to enact a new policy of expanding the Papahanaumokuakea without proper transparency," Akaka said. "The people of Hawaii need to know what this is all about and they need to respond to it."
The group isn't stopping here. In a letter to Obama and signed by former Hawaii Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, the group is asking to reconsider the plan. The letter states that, "Native Hawaiian rights and Hawaii State rights have not been considered, and there is no transparency in this process. No economic impact study was conducted to determine the impact of this proposed expansion."
One of the predominate groups at the rally were long line fishermen. Their main concern? The proposed expansion will drastically limit their catch which impacts their livelihood and Hawaii's economy if the proposed expansion goes through. Commercial fishing is the largest domestic food producer.
"If the expansion is implemented, the fishermen will have much less area with which to explore for fish and so those of us in the fishing industry believe it or not try to go where the fish are and sometimes the fish are in an area that would be off limits if the monument were expanded," said Sean Martin, President of Longline Hawaii Association.
While there are growing concerns of the plan, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees (OHA) supports the expansion and views it as an opportunity to preserve the monument for research and educational purposes.
"We will be able to create prospects for cultural research that has scientific implications and for Native Hawaiian students to maintain the spiritual, intellectual and genealogical bond with islands traversed by their forefathers," said Kamana'opono Crabbe, OHA chief executive officer.