The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a new Environmental Impact Statement that proposes to expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary 235 square miles–about 17 percent– and shifting to an “ecosystem-based management system: in other words, it would shift from managing only humpback whales to looking at the health of the entire marine ecosystem in the whale’s winter range around the Hawaiian Islands. The EIS wachanging the name of the expanded sanctuary to “Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary – Na Kai ‘Ewalu”
The EIS recommends establishing new sanctuary boundaries around Ni‘ihau, extending the sanctuary boundary to Ali‘i Beach on the North Shore of O‘ahu, aligning the boundary with the ahupua‘as of Ha‘en and Pila‘a on Kaua‘i, and extending the sanctuary around the ledgeson the south end of Penguin Bank.
The sanctuary was originally established by the U.S. Congress in 1992. Since 1998, it has been co-managed by NOAA and the State of Hawaii. Any modifications to the management plan would have to be approved by Governor Ige, according to a press release by the Governor’s office. The Environmental Impact Statement notes that the State Department of Land and Natural Resources “serves as the lead agency in administering the co-management of the sanctuary.”
“The State strongly encourages people to comment on the plan. We will be evaluating public input and reviewing the draft management plan, draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed regulations in light of what’s best for Hawaii’s public trust resources and for our communities,” said Interim Chair Carty Chang of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
According to the whale sanctuary’s official site, it will conduct public hearing meetings in communities across the State of Hawai‘i from April 27, 2015 to May 6, 2015. However according to regulations.gov, a meeting on the new rules will take place at Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, 74-5000 Puohulihuli Street, Kailua-Kona, from 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m on May 7. The Chronicle is looking into the discrepancy.
Public comments can be submitted online at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2015-0028 or via “snail mail” to the following address:
1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg 176
Honolulu, HI 96818
The deadline for receiving comments is June 19, 2015.