During the last week of March the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made a proposal to expand the scope and focus of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary . The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was established by Congress in 1992 in order to protect Humpback whales and their Hawaiian habitat, which they visit each year to mate and give birth; it was the 12th marine sanctuary to be established. It is thought that the sanctuary has helped to boost numbers from a paltry 6,000 back in 1993 to 10,000 in 2006, with numbers only having increased since then!
If the expansion goes through, the sanctuary would receive a new name: Na Kai Ewalu, which roughly translates to Eight Ocean Waters. The expansion would add roughly 235 sq. miles to the current 1,366 sq. mile sanctuary; the boundaries expanding to include the coastline of Niihau, parts of the Kauai and Oahu shorelines, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and even Molokai! The best part of the planned expansion is the ecosystem-based management rule that comes along with it; it proposes that other marine life such as coral, honu, and other marine mammals should be receive special protection. It is thought that the new rule will allineate modern science with marine management practices of the Hawaiian culture.
Public meetings will be held regarding the proposal from April 27th to May 11th. We encourage anyone who is interested in gaining more information about the proposal to attend a meeting place near you. The public hearings for the island of Maui will take place on April 29th and 30th at the Kihei Youth Center and Kaunoa Senior Center, respectively. If you can’t attend a hearing in person comments are also being accepted online and by mail at the following address:
1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg 176
Honolulu, HI 96818