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Lingle Seeks to Postpone Monk Seal Habitat Designation

Posted November 30, 2011, 08:54 AM HST
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By Wendy Osher

File photo courtesy: Bill Lewis via DLNR. Initial post Dec. 4, 2008.

Former governor Linda Lingle is calling on the federal government to postpone the habitat designation for the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal until social and economic impacts are understood and addressed.

She said the proposed designation would cover nearly 75% of the size of the state, resulting in potential adverse impacts.

Lingle called the proposed designation an “example of government over-reach and insensitivity to the concerns of the people of this state.”

In addition to impacts expressed by fishermen, Lingle said there are also concerns of adverse impacts to potential clean energy projects (such as wave energy, ocean-thermal energy, and seawater air conditioning), aquaculture, military activities, harbor improvements and near-shore construction (including airports modernization and highway reconstruction).

Governor Linda Lingle. File photo from recent Maui visit in October, 2011. Photo by Wendy Osher.

She said there is insufficient information to measure the financial impacts on these activities.

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Lingle’s concerns were expressed in a letter delivered yesterday to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the letter, Lingle said that while she supports efforts to protect and preserve endangered species,  she said the efforts should be carried out with a “sensitivity” to the people and activities they impact.

NOAA published the proposed rule last June and opened the suggestion up to 60 days of public comment.  The agency reopened public comment after concerns were raised by fishermen and other groups concerned with the designation and its impacts.

NOAA lists the Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) as one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, with a population that remains in decline.

The endemic species is protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and state law in Hawaii.

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