HONOLULU — A Native Hawaiian proposal that calls for the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is picking up steam and this week a delegation from the Obama Administration is meeting with stakeholders to discuss the possibility.
The waters around Kauai and Niihau, however, would be exempt from the expansion, according to news release sent to The Garden Island on Thursday.
“As Native Hawaiians, our core identity and survival is tied to the ocean. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is where we believe life originated,” said Kekuewa Kikiloi, Chair, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group. “All resources in nature – from corals to sharks – have cultural significance for Native Hawaiians and are an embodiment of our ancestors. By expanding Papahanaumokuakea we can help protect our cultural ocean-scapes and show future generations that preservation of the environment is preservation of our cultural traditions.”
The proposal calls for expanding Papahanaumokuakea from 50 nautical miles to the 200 nautical mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with exception for the waters surrounding the islands of Niihau and Kauai.
Those areas would remain outside of the monument boundaries, as well as two important fishing buoys for local Kauai fishermen.
The Cultural Working Group, made up of local fisherman and scientists, as well as local and national environmentalists, and concerned residents, is also calling for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to be co-trustee on the management committee.
“Large, strongly protected marine reserves have emerged as important policy solutions,” said Dr. Richard Pyle, Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology, Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum. “They carry the dual benefit of being both marine climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.”
According to representatives from the marine monument, there are “significant resources of scientific value that would benefit from expanded protections,” such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins, seabirds, sharks, and tuna.
“We have seen the decline in tuna populations that long-line fishing in Hawaii has caused, subjecting Hawaiians and Hawaii residents to import ‘ahi poke from other countries,” said Jay Carpio, a fishermen from Maui who has been leading education and support efforts. “Fishermen like the late Uncle Buzzy Agard led the effort to establish Papahanaumokuakea, and local fishermen are again leading the call to President Obama to expand the monument.”