NOAA withdraws whale sanctuary expansion

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The federal government announced it dropped a plan to transform the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary from a single species national marine sanctuary.

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The federal government announced it dropped a plan to transform the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary from a single species national marine sanctuary.

The proposal would have shifted from focusing solely on the humpback whale and its habitat and broaden it to a national marine sanctuary with an expanded boundary and broader ecosystem scope.

After listening to input from the community and the state, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration is withdrawing the proposal to expand sanctuary conservation around Hawaii, the agency said.

“Any management action must be supported by the state,” said John Armor acting director of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “On January 22, NOAA received a letter from the state of Hawaii regarding the future of the sanctuary with concerns regarding the March 2015 proposal.”

HIHWNMS will continue in its present form, conserving and protecting humpback whales and providing needed research support and public education, Armor said.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership and working together with the State of Hawaii and local communities,” he said.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources in a statement issued Tuesday said it would continue to work with the agency, and other partners, to “preserve Hawaii’s marine ecosystem for the sustainable use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

“The Sanctuary has done this extraordinarily well with humpback whales for over 20 years and we had hoped that this expertise could be extended to other marine mammals,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “Although ultimately the Sanctuary will not have an expanded purpose, we look forward to building upon its accomplishments, as well as highlighting its successes.

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The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whales National Marine Sanctuary was established by Congress in 1992. It is located from the shoreline to the 600-foot depth off of Maui Nui, including Penguin Bank, and off the north shore of Kauai, the north and south shores of Oahu, and the north Kona coast of Hawaii Island. The sanctuary is co-managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the state through the DLNR.

The proposed management plan would have added about 235 miles of new state and federal waters around Kauai, Niihau and Oahu to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. It would have brought the sanctuary area to 1,601 square miles and extend its focus from just whales to other marine species.

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