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Proposed Expansion/Focus of Whale Sanctuary, Comment Deadline June 19

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NOAA's proposal to reclassify humpback whales into 14 distinct population segments will offer fisheries managers a more tailored conservation approach. (Credit: NOAA)

Friday, June 19 is the deadline for public comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that seeks to expand the size and focus of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. (Credit: NOAA)

By Maui Now Staff

Friday, June 19, 2015 is the deadline for public comment on a proposal to expand the size and focus of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to include multiple marine species.

The proposal calls for: an increase in size; the expansion of management to not only include humpback whales, but all natural and cultural resources within its boundaries; and changing the agency’s name.

Under the proposal, the boundary of the sanctuary would expand by 235 square miles to more than 1,600 square miles, and would include state and federal waters around O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

In 2012, during the process to review the sanctuary’s management plan, the sanctuary advisory council’s working groups determined that while humpback whales remain the centerpiece of sanctuary protection, there is an increased need and urgency to take a more integrated approach to marine resource management.


Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say, “the ecosystem-based management approach, as proposed, is backed by science and is consistent with the traditional Hawaiian approach to managing natural and cultural resources.”


More information on the proposal can be found on the sanctuary’s website.

The announcement comes as NOAA also seeks the removal of 10 of 14 populations of humpbacks from endangered species status.  If the proposal is finalized, NOAA officials say the humpback whale populations that would no longer be listed under the Endangered Species Act would still remain protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Following this comment period, a final management plan and environmental impact statement will be prepared through a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act.


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