Support mixed for expanded sanctuary

May 1, 2015
By BRIAN PERRY – Staff Writer (bperry@mauinews.com) , The Maui News

KIHEI – A half-dozen testifiers commented Wednesday evening on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s draft management plan to expand the size and to include multiple species in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

About 40 people attended Wednesday evening’s meeting, the first of four scheduled in Maui County, at the Kihei Youth Center. Some testifiers expressed support for the sanctuary’s mission to protect humpback whales and for widening its scope to include other species, such as dolphins, monk seals and sea turtles; but others spoke against the sanctuary, including one person who called for the end of the 22-year-old refuge for whales covering 1,370 square miles of state and federal waters in Hawaii.

“The sanctuary should go away,” said Basil Oshiro, president of the Maui Cooperative Fishing Association and the Kula representative for Aha Moku o Maui. “We oppose/reject all of the (revised plan) alternatives on the grounds that the humpback whale in Hawaii . . . is no longer endangered. The single-species sanctuary should go away for that reason.”

On April 20, NOAA proposed removing the Hawaii population of humpback whales from the endangered species list. The whales have received endangered species protection since 1970, four years after the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling.

Some conservationists have suggested that delisting the whales may be premature. However, NOAA officials said conservation efforts have paid off and whale populations have been healthy and growing at steady rates.

If the NOAA proposal is adopted, whales in Hawaii would be listed as threatened, not endangered, but they still would continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Public comments on delisting the whales are due July 20.

Fact Box

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary proposed management plan highlights

Public comments on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s proposed management plan for the 1,370-square-mile Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary are due June 19.

The proposal would prohibit activities in special sanctuary management areas around Maui County and the Penguin Bank, a submerged volcano west of Molokai, including:

* Taking or possessing humpback whales, other marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, federal endangered species or species protected under state law.

* Discharges of pollution into the sanctuary.

* Altering submerged lands, which applies to dredging, drilling or otherwise altering submerged lands.

* Possessing or using explosives.

* Introducing non-native species.

* Damaging or destroying signs.

The preferred proposal also would add 235.2 square miles, or another 17 percent, to the sanctuary’s borders. Additional areas would include:

* Oahu’s North Shore from Ali’i Beach Park to Mahie Point, but excluding Haleiwa Harbor.

* Kauai’s north shore to include Pila’a and the Ha’ena ahupua’a.

* Extending the sanctuary’s boundaries around the ledges on the south end of the Penguin Bank.

*Establishing new sanctuary boundaries around Niihau.

* Including the first 1 1/2 miles of the Hanalei River on Kauai.

Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketdetail;d=noaa-nos-2015-0028.

Submissions should be accompanied by the docket number, NOAA-NOS-2015-0028. Input also may be mailed to Sanctuary Superintendent Malia Chow at 1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu 96818.

More information about the proposal can be found at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/management/management_plan_review.html.

The state of Alaska filed a petition to remove some North Pacific humpback whales from protection under the Endangered Species Act last year. That population, estimated at more than 5,800, feeds in Alaska in the summer and breeds in Hawaii in winter.

In other testimony Tuesday, Oshiro said that the sanctuary’s conservation work is duplicated by other groups and agencies, including the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources and the Aha Moku councils, which serve as an advisory body to the DLNR.

“The sanctuary should not be given any new regulatory powers,” Oshiro said in written testimony. The sanctuary is “ill-equipped to implement any regulations or permitting authority and duplicates other federal agencies and state agencies that already have powers to do what is being proposed.”

He suggested that new rules for approaching humpback whales should be integrated into the Marine Mammal Protection Act, rather than into the Hawaiian Islands sanctuary.

The federal mammal conservation law “is well understood and has stood the test of time,” Oshiro said. “Any new rules should be placed in existing law, rather than giving it to a new entity, such as the sanctuary.”

Ke’eaumoku Kapu, chief executive officer of Aha Moku o Maui, also spoke against the sanctuary’s proposal.

“I question the process,” he said, maintaining that the plan was drafted from top-down, rather than from “bottom to top” and “that kind of turned things sour.”

He questioned whether the plan’s draft was to create jobs for scientists or even expand federal authority and make way for “military occupation.”

Speaking on behalf of the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources, aquatic biologist Skippy Hau said that the state was proud of the sanctuary’s accomplishments, particularly its public education programs and its work to disentangle whales snared in fishing lines.

But Hau emphasized that the state is not a sponsor of the sanctuary’s revised management plan, and that the state was conducting its own evaluation and review of the proposal to increase federal jurisdiction over Hawaiian waters.

Commercial fisherman Lane Nakagawa testified that he was “very wary, very untrusting” about the growth of the sanctuary and the extent to which it could interfere with fishermen.

He noted that “we have to live under these rules.”

For example, he said it was unclear how the sanctuary’s proposed prohibition against altering submerged lands might affect fishermen.

Out on the ocean as much as 48 hours at a time, Nakagawa said he often sees whale-watching tour boats maneuvering to get visitors close to whales, adding that, to him, it appears to be like “Animal Planet” or “Whale Wars.”

“When I’m out on the ocean, all I see is people chasing these things around,” he said.

Fishermen do their best to stay clear of the whales, he said.

He suggested that the current 100-yard approach limit be expanded to 200 or 400 yards.

Sanctuary Superintendent Malia Chow spoke at length at the opening of the meeting about how the sanctuary was in the process of soliciting broad and diverse public comments on the proposed plan.

“We’d like to hear from the public whether we’ve got it right,” she said.

Under the proposal, no areas of the sanctuary would be closed off, and there would be no regulation of fishing, she said.

A five-year review of the sanctuary’s management plans began in 2010 and took in nearly 12,600 comments as it was drafting its revised plan. That plan is undergoing a review process for its environmental impact statement.

The proposed rule includes a boundary expansion that adds more than 230 square miles of state and federal waters around Oahu, Kauai and Niihau, bringing the total sanctuary area to 1,600 square miles. The revision also calls for changing the sanctuary’s name to the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Na Kai ‘Ewalu.

In 2012, during the process to review the sanctuary’s management plan, the sanctuary advisory council’s working groups determined that while humpback whales remain the centerpiece of sanctuary protection, there’s a need for a more “integrated approach to marine resource management,” according to the sanctuary. The revised plan is an “ecosystem-based management approach” backed by science and consistent with the traditional Hawaiian approach to managing natural and cultural resources.

Another meeting was held Thursday evening in Lahaina. And it will be followed with a session from 4 to 6:30 p.m. today at the Lanikeha Community Center in Kaunakakai and a final Maui County session from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lanai High and Elementary School.

Public comments are due June 19. Following the public comment period, a final management plan and environmental impact statement will be prepared through a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The sanctuary is administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The sanctuary includes warm ocean waters less than 600 feet deep and surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.



UPDATE  4/29/15    About 40 guys showed up for this presentation at the Kihei Youth Center this evening, with six offering testimony. The majority of it was a power point presentation by the personable and animated Superintendent of the Sanctuary, Dr Melia Chow, who explained that none of the proposed expansion was in our portion of the Sanctuary, but the proposed change for a single (Hawaiian Humpback Whale) Species Sanctuary to an ecosystem based one would affect the entire Sanctuary. It was one of these strange public meetings where those presenting could not answer public questions until after the meeting was over.

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 4/6/15  NOAA proposes expanding focus, boundaries of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Meeting at Kihei Youth Center April 29 at 5:30 PM

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Agency asks for public comments through June 19

Following extensive collaboration with partners including non-governmental organizations, businesses, scientists, and other members of the community, NOAA today has announced its proposed rule for expanding the size and the focus of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to include multiple marine species.


Members of the public are invited to submit comments to the agency on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement now through June 19.


This proposal is the result of a multi-year collaborative effort that involved considerable input from all sectors of the local community,” said Malia Chow, sanctuary superintendent. “We welcome further public review and input into our proposed new management plan as we move forward with the important job of managing this special place which is critical to both the regional economy and communities in Hawai‘i.”


In 2012, during the process to review the sanctuary’s management plan, the sanctuary advisory council’s working groups determined that while humpback whales remain the centerpiece of sanctuary protection, there is an increased need and urgency to take a more integrated approach to marine resource management.


The ecosystem-based management approach, as proposed, is backed by science and is consistent with the traditional Hawaiian approach to managing natural and cultural resources. NOAA works closely with the state of Hawai‘i, local communities and various stakeholders to protect Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.

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The proposed rule also includes a boundary expansion that adds 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, and provide the sanctuary with new opportunities to work closely with communities on priority resource protection issues.


Following this comment period, a final management plan and environmental impact statement will be prepared through a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act.


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.: K?hei Youth Center, 131 S. K?hei Road, K?hei

?      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: L?na‘i High and Elementary School, 555 Fraser Avenue, L?na‘i City

?      May 4, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.: K?lauea Elementary School Cafeteria, 2440 Kolo Road, K?lauea

?      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: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2015-0028. 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.Malia Chow, Ph D


For more information on the proposal, visit the sanctuary’s website at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/management/management_plan_review.html.


Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the state of Hawai‘i through the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The sanctuary, which lies within the shallow—less than 600 feet—and  warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, constitutes one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats. Join us on Facebook.


DLNR’s mission is to enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of visitors and the people of Hawai‘i. Join us on Facebook


NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.



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