News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.
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News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at:

KAHEA Lawsuit Makes Headlines


by Stewart:

KAHEA’s complaint asking a Hawaii court to require the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to follow state law concerning permits for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument has made news, as Hawaii’s largest newspaper and a national environmental wire service both published pieces on the matter today.

The news reports come two days after KAHEA filed its suit and a day after KAHEA presented its case to the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources.  KAHEA has requested the board refrain from issuing new permits until the agency complies with the law; KAHEA has requested an administrative hearing on the issue.

Draft Science Plan Public Hearing: Grandfathering-in Permitted Activities

From:  Andrea

Last night at the public hearing on the Draft Science Plan for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, held at the monument office in Hawaii Kai, a troubling consequence of the lack of environmental review was elucidated.

One of the Science Plan authors stated that research activities that have already been permitted are assumed to have gone through a “rigorous” review by management.  The problem?

Actually, there could be quite a few from this muddy statement.  For one, this statement suggests that research activities that have already been permitted will not be scrutinized- nor, certainly, environmentally assessed- in the future.  It sounds like grandfathering-in existing and previous permits, meaning some activities that have been permitted in the past will be continuously assumed to pass muster, despite never actually being environmentally reviewed.

Clearly, grandfathering-in research activities so that they never undergo environmental review creates informational ravines that make cumulative impact analysis impossible.  Cumulative impacts, the incremental impacts of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future action, must be assessed.  The managers need to understand the big picture, especially when making seemingly small decisions like permitting.

Secondly, what is this “rigorous” review that the manager mentioned?  There has been no environmental assessment on any permits nor the entire permitting system nor the Science Plan, so it clearly was not environmental review.  If this rigorous review were undertaken via the prioritization system of the Science Plan, that, too, is problematic.

As I have blogged before, the Science Plan has two tragic flaws:  (1)  the prioritization scheme that doesn’t actually prioritize permit activities (To prioritize permit activities, it asks, pros and…pros?, leading to 97% of potential research activities to be ranked as “critical” or “high” in importance.) and (2)  the lack of environmental review.

But, the environmental assessment did not come with the Science Plan.  The managers argue that this is the draft plan, so environmental assessment is not appropriate now.  However, they also proclaim the plan to be an evolving document- not problematic necessarily.  The evolving nature of the plan is problematic, however, for lack of environmental review because, if it is meant to evolve, when would the managers consider environmental review appropriate? There could always be an argument that it is not truly finalized yet if it’s an “evolving” document.

On the other side, if the monument managers, in fact, conduct an environmental assessment for the Final Science Plan, which is the next step after last night’s public hearing, the decision on permitting prioritization will have been made.  And, environmental assessment is legally required to take place prior to decision-making.  The whole point of environmental review is for decision-makers to be informed of environmental impacts before they make final decisions.

So, either the Science Plan truly is an evolving document, in which case an environmental review is likely to be put off forever.  Or, the Science Plan will be finalized in the next step, the Final Science Plan, which frustrates the point of environmental review taking place before decisions are made.

Confusing?  Yes.  But it need not be.

KAHEA urges the monument managers to take the straightforward approach by conducting environmental review of the Science Plan, which guides the entire permitting process, prior to finalization of the plan.  KAHEA also urges environmental review of all permits- no grandfathering-in.  Each proposed permit should be looked at with a fresh eye, through the lens of cumulative impacts, which inherently change over time.

Let’s hope that public comments are indeed incorporated into the Final Science Plan, whenever that may be.  Otherwise, the one-sided prioritization system will continue to rank most activities high, leading to excessive access and impact in a fragile, irreplaceable ecosystem.

What can you do?  Speak up!

Last public hearing on the Science Plan  is in Hilo tomorrow:

Hawai‘i, July 23th, 6-8 p.m.
Mokupapapa Discovery Center,
308 Kamehameha Ave, Suite 203, Hilo, HI, 96720.

All written public comments must be received by the monument managers by or before August 10.

• U.S. Mail:
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Attn: Science Plan Comments, 6600 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy, Suite 300, Honolulu HI, 96825

• E-mail:

To read the plan:

(It takes a few minutes to download, but once you’re there, skip to page 10 for the prioritization chart.)

32 Tons of Marine Litter Removed: Sadly, the Tip of the Iceberg

From:  Andrea

The U.S. Coast Guard removed 32 tons of debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands over the Fourth of July weekend.  Much thanks to the Coast Guard for ameliorating the health of our oceans!  See the Honolulu Advertiser article:

While I am glad that efforts to clean up marine litter are taking place, especially in such an  irreplaceable, nationally protected locale, 32 tons is only the tip of the iceberg.  The scale of this problem is vast.  Marine litter filling our oceans is a global problem affecting all people and nations.  Marine litter, of which 80% are plastics, harms marine life, degrades human health, and results in tremendous social, economic, and cultural costs.

The United Nations Environment Programme recognizes this immense ocean dilemma that affects everyone.  In April 2009,   the UN Environment Programme released a report titled “Marine Litter:  A Global Challenge.”  Find the report at:

“There is an increasingly urgent need to approach the issue of marine litter through better enforcement of laws and regulations, expanded outreach and educational campaigns, and the employment of strong economic instruments and incentives,” the report says.

The report also notes that the “overall situation is not improving.” Thank you, Coast Guard, for your part.  But, we must do our part, too.

What can you do to help reduce marine litter?

  • Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and storm drains free of trash to prevent washing trash into the ocean and waterways.
  • Take reusable items- and less trash and throw-away containers- to the beach.
  • At the beach, be sure to recycle what you can and throw the rest of your trash into trash cans.  Do not leave trash or anything else, like plastic toys or containers, at the beach when you leave.
  • Pick up debris that other people have left; recycle what you can, and throw the rest away in a trash can.
  • When fishing, take all of your nets, gear, and other materials back onshore to recycle or dispose of in a trash can.
  • If you smoke, take your butts with you, disposing of them in a trash can.
  • When boating, stow and secure all trash on the vessel.
  • Participate in local clean-ups.  Here’s one resource:
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Serve as an example to others.

Wanted: Old Seal Stories

As part of ongoing efforts to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, federal officials are turning to old Hawaiian chants and songs. The purpose: to battle misperceptions that the Hawaiian monk seal is an invasive species that does not deserve protection.

“This ain’t the mongoose; this animal was here before any of us,” says David Schofield, Monk Seal Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The problem, however, is to document the animal’s presence here.  To that end, NOAA is working with Hawaiian cultural experts to find references to the monk seal in traditional oli and mele.  NOAA also is asking people to ask kupuna if they know of any old stories involving the sea mammals. The point, Schofield says, is not to invent tall tales about seals, but document the animals’ presence through oral histories and other documents. 

For instance, Schofield says, volunteers interested in helping might research archives, such as the Bishop Museum, to find old references to the animals.

This research is just a small piece of what NOAA is trying to do to help the seals. The agency is charged with protecting beached seals, rescuing animals that have been hooked or entangled in fishing nets, counting seals, relocating animals that become too habituated to people, and informing the public about the animals. Part of this public outreach campaign lately has involved dealing with a growing rumor: that monk seals are not from here.  This ugly rumor has led some people to refuse to give monk seals the deference the animals deserve when it comes to sharing the water. And that’s a problem.

Known in Hawaiian as ‘Ilio holo I ka uaua, or the dog that runs in rough water, the Hawaiian monk seal has been recorded in the islands as far back as the 19th century.

our world gets bigger.

Posted by kahea at Feb 26, 2008 10:54 PM |

UPDATE from Rich on 2/29:  Got word yesterday that the House Finance Committee passed HB839 with amendments!

From email from Rich ma over at Beach Access Hawai’i in Kailua:

I was going to use a clever subject line for this email — something like, “Show me the money!” because that’s what it comes down to now. We’re asking the State to pony up bucks to do this beach access survey and report. But a little earlier I got a phone call from someone in our group…

His mother passed away this morning and he wanted the phone number of another BAH member, because he needed help getting a canoe so he could scatter her ashes in the waters off the Mokulua islands. He said she loved Lanikai and Kailua Beach, and this is what she wanted.

Until I got involved with this cause, I didn’t know him or the paddler he wanted to get in touch with. I think it speaks volumes about what the beaches and ocean means to all who live in Hawaii. It connects us, and brings us together. You know those people who put up gates on “private” roads? Their world has gotten smaller, while our circle of friends is growing and getting bigger.

You can support the bill he’s talking about–HB839– by showing up to the hearing and/or emailing in your testimony to the finance committee. (contact Rich at if you need sample testimony to follow.)

From BAH: The meeting will be in Room 308 at the State Capitol building. HB839 is at the top of the agenda, so testimony will probably start around 11:15 am, and could continue for a half hour to an hour depending on how many people show up.

More Media Coverage of Beach Access Rally Day!

Posted by kahea at Feb 03, 2008 02:17 PM |

Links to media coverage from Scott at Surfrider Oahu Chapter:

Polihale public access agreement reached on Kauai:

Network News Coverage of Beach Access Rallies

Posted by kahea at Feb 03, 2008 03:00 AM |


“Hawaii’s beaches are public property. But in recent years, more private landowners have closed off paths that lead to the shoreline. In an effort to change that, some 20 grassrooots organizations rallied across the state today.”


Protestors throughout the state hit the streets to call attention to beach access. They say more and more new developments are closing off paths to public beaches, and they want them back.”

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