Governor Signs Marine Monument Agreement

By Kristine Uyeno

(KHNL) - Gov. Linda Lingle and two cabinet secretaries signed an agreement to manage and protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.

"So on this historic day, I'm just so excited, so proud to be a part of this," said Gov. Lingle.

She signed the agreement with Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

The monument is now the largest protected marine area in the world, supporting 7,000 different marine species. In June, President Bush signed the proclamation that created the monument. It covers nearly 140,000 square miles of land and ocean.

"It is not immune to human impacts, each year, a staggering amount of garbage and debris washes onto its otherwise pristine beaches," said Gutierrez.

But Jim Cook, vice president of Pacific Ocean Producers, believes residents won't see as many of their favorite types of fish, including onaga and opakapaka, in the markets.

"Fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has been the best managed fishery any place in the United States," said Cook.

Eight vessels fish in that area and some believe that's not enough to make a dent in the fish population. Cook predicts phasing out commercial fishing will increase the price for fish.

Local and national leaders say this will preserve marine life, but others believe it'll take away part of Hawaii's culture.