Ecosystem-Based Management Recommended for Whale Sanctuary

February 6, 2012, 2:03 PM HST · Updated February 6, 2:05 PM
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By Wendy Osher

The Advisory Council to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is recommending that the sanctuary consider expanding its focus from humpback whales and their habitat to the ecosystem as a whole.

The recommendations reflect an approach that considers the whole ecosystem, including humans and the environment, rather than managing one resource or issue in isolation, according to information provided by the council.

“An ecosystem-based approach would allow the sanctuary to better support community efforts to protect and sustainably use their natural, cultural, and historic resources, and would also complement the current efforts of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources that are aimed at the holistic management of our watersheds,” said Elia Herman, state co-manager of the sanctuary.

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The recommendation is part of the sanctuary’s management plan review process that is currently underway.  An updated draft management plan is expected to be released for public comment in 2013.

Whale activity in Maui waters, photo by Wendy Osher 2/4/12.

The recommendation is the result of more than 60 working group meetings, several workshops, and 2,000 hours of voluntary service by technical experts, cultural advisers, and stakeholders during the past year.

The council asked the sanctuary to look at a variety of recommendations as part of its future marine resource conservation efforts that also includes:

  • Consideration of special management areas
  • Discussion of vessel speed limits, and
  • Increased collaboration with communities and state and federal agencies.

“These management recommendations are a monumental achievement and a first for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council,” said Dr. Adam Pack, council chair and an associate professor at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in a statement.

Governor Neil Abercrombie is among those who have voiced support for the management plan review process saying it, “takes into account our need to assess the biocultural resources of Hawai‘i so that we can ensure use and enjoyment by residents and visitors now and into the future.”

The sanctuary was established in 1992 by an act of Congress, and is jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.  Its purpose is to protect humpback whales and their habitat.

***Supporting information courtesy Sanctuary Advisory Council.

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