NOAA has proposed a 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 Hawaii, local communities and various stakeholders to protect Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.
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.