Wanted: Advice on coral reef protection

LIHU’E — What can be done to protect pristine coral reefs and marine life and

birds in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands?

That is what federal and state

government officials hope to find out from Kaua’i residents at a public meeting

at the Kaua’i Community College cafeteria from 7 to 9 p.m. on July 31.

Five other meetings are scheduled for O’ahu, the Big Island and Maui from July

24 to Aug.1.

The meetings are at the request of President Clinton, who

has asked the heads of the U.S. departments of Commerce and Interior for

recommendations for a plan to better protect the ecosystem of the northwestern

islands, said Barbara Maxfield, external affairs chief with the U.S. Fish and

Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands, on O’ahu.

The plan will be developed in

consultation with the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

The islands from Nihoa Island to Kure Atoll are surrounded by some of the

healthiest and most extensive coral reefs within the waters of the United

States, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The coral reefs found

in the region account for 69 percent of all coral reefs in the nation,

Maxfield said.

The reefs have remained healthy due partly to the

remoteness of the region, she added.

The region also is home to fish,

invertebrates, birds, sea turtle and marine animals.

More than 90 percent

of the green sea turtles in the Pacific nest at French Frigate Shoals.

Through action by then-President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, the region

was established as a protected breeding area for seabirds, including the

black-footed albatross and the Laysan albatross.

During the meetings,

residents will be asked to comment on how to protect the coral reef ecosystem,

current and future threats to resources, appropriate activities and cultural

uses, and resource management methods.

The assumption is that Clinton will

ask for a protection plan after final recommendations are sent to him on Aug.

25, Maxfield said.

The plan, if one is developed, could be enforced by the

Fish and Wildlife Service — which, with the exception of Kure Atoll, operates

two wildlife refuges in the region.

Sharing jurisdiction would be the

state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which maintains a wildlife

refuge on Kure Atoll, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which provides

for protection for the Hawaiian monk seal and four species of sea turtles that

live in the region.

Besides the federal agencies and the Department of Land

and Natural Resources, the meetings are sponsored by the Western Pacific

Regional Fishery Management Council.

Additional information about the

meetings can be obtained from the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict

Resolution at www.ecr.gov/nwhi. Written comments can be mailed to the institute

at 110 S. Church Ave., Suite 3350, Tucson, AZ 85701 or faxed to (520) 670-5530.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or

lchang@pulitzer.net

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