Expanding protection for our kupuna islands

Posted by Lauren Muneoka at Jul 27, 2016 04:15 PM |
KAHEA was part of the initial push to create a protective refuge in the state waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the subsequent, successful establishment of the first-ever marine monument in 2006. This action would protect one of the most unique ocean ecosystems on the planet.

KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance strongly supported recent requests to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to the full 200 nautical mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – excluding the waters around Ni‘ihau and Kaua‘i. This action would protect one of the most unique ocean ecosystems on the planet. We sent letters of support to President Obama, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Governor Ige, the State Legislature, Hawai`i’s congressional delegation, BLNR, the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, and NOAA.

The initial expansion proposal covered a larger area.  Later, U.S. Senator Schatz proposed a smaller area for protection in order to accommodate Kauaʻi boat fishers in Middle Banks and north of Nihoa, but would also accommodate fishery exploitation by commercial longliners in the southern part of the area.  We support the initial map (below), but would also support the second proposal because both would increase the volume of  protected areas.

Map of initial proposal for expansion (above).

Map of Senator Schatz's subsequent proposal for expansion (above).

Ongoing support for Papahānaumokuākea

KAHEA was part of the initial push to create a protective refuge in the state waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the subsequent, successful establishment of the first-ever marine monument in 2006.

Beginning in 2000, and for six years following, fishers, divers, scientists, cultural practitioners, conservation advocates, and other concerned members of the public attended over 30 public hearings and 100 public meetings--all sending a clear message about their vision for the future of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands which now comprise the Papahānaumokuākea monument. In all, over 100,000 public comments were submitted in support of full conservation for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This dedicated public advocacy ultimately helped to win a commitment from both the State of Hawai'i and the U.S. Federal government for full conservation of this fragile, wild, and uniquely Hawaiian place. In the summer of 2005, the State of Hawaiʻi established the Northwest Hawaiian Island Marine Refuge protecting all state waters from inappropriate and harmful extraction. On June 15, 2006, the Monument expanded those protections out fifty nautical miles around each island. Presidential Proclamation No. 8031 was the first use of the Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. §§431-36) to protect extremely significant and fragile marine environments from potentially harmful federal actions like military exercises, federally regulated fishing, and federally funded research or construction. On July 30, 2010, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) delegates inscribed Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as one of only 28 mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Sites in the world.

The Papahānaumokuākea monument harbors a wealth of unique historical, natural, and cultural resources that constitute an irreplaceable part of Native Hawaiian cultural heritage. Expansion of Monument boundaries, for instance, would protect a voyaging seascape. This means more than the Monument islands and nearshore waters must be protected. Native Hawaiian wayfinding and navigation practices required biological indicators such as the varied flights of seabirds and pathways of mobile marine species to cross oceans, all of which extend out well beyond the current fifty nautical miles.

Referred to as the Kūpuna Islands, the lands and water comprising Papahānaumokuākea monument are "ceded" crown lands and part of the cultural and natural heritage of the people of Hawai`i. Hundreds of cultural sites provide information about the origins of Hawaiʻiʻs first peoples and life in wā kahiko. The islands are celebrated in mele and oli (song and chant) as the place where Hawai`i began. One ancient mele describes the travels of Pele through the Papahānaumokuākea lands on her way to the main Hawaiian Islands. Ancient cosmological chants, such as the Kumulipo, link Native Hawaiians genealogically to all life that originated in this region. Ecological protection of Papahānaumokuākea has and will continue to nurture connection and revitalize Hawaiʻi and its living indigenous culture.

Rationale and Hawaiian practitioner and resource manager support.

On April 5, 2016, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group (“Working Group”), which is administratively under the Monument Management Board for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, wrote to Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Working Group conveyed their “enthusiastic[]” vote in support of Monument expansion and invited CEQ to meet with the Group in Hawai‘i. Expansion would increase protections for Monument natural resources, which are coextensive with Hawaiian cultural resources. The Working Group further requested the State of Hawaiʻi Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) be elevated to the status of “co-trustee” of the Monument in the interests of fuller participation from Native Hawaiian communities and leaders.

Marine protected areas are effective.

Our oceans are threatened by overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, and climate change. According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014, about 90 percent of global fish stocks are overfished or fully-fished. Researchers found that fully protected marine reserves are essential to rebuilding species abundance and diversity and increasing ecological resilience to climate change. At least 20-30 percent of our ocean should be in protected marine reserves to ensure the productivity of marine fisheries and overall ocean health. Today, only 3.4 percent of the world’s oceans are protected. Establishing a larger boundary will create safe zones for our fish.

Protections for biodiverse ecosystems.

The current boundary of Papahānaumokuākea includes vital habitat for a number of species. However, it does not fully protect sufficient habitat and travel routes for several protected or ecologically important species, such as the Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, sharks, whales, and Black footed and Laysan albatrosses. Further, a number of undocumented species live outside current Monument boundaries, as well as seamounts, which are hot spots of biodiversity, and old growth coral colonies that are thousands of years old and merit protection as part of the common heritage of mankind.

Monument expansion would help mitigate climate change impacts.

President Obama’s 2014 expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was part of his effort to respond to climate change crises. President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 370,000 to 490,000 nautical square miles under a legal process similar to one proposed for Papahānaumokuākea. The 2014 “National Climate Assessment” confirmed that anthropogenic climate change has been causing sea levels to rise, as well as ocean temperatures. Warming ocean temperatures harm corals and cause certain species to migrate. Increased carbon outputs are also absorbed by ocean waters, which causes acidification that damages corals, shellfish, and alters marine ecosystems. Large marine protected areas help to rebuild this biodiversity, support fisheries, and improve overall ocean ecosystem resilience.

Come to public meetings on the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea: Monday, August 1 in Waipahu for Oahu and on Tuesday, August 2 at Kauai Community College.  RSVP through the Expand Papahānaumokuākea page.

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