As Chairman of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and as a longtime native Hawaiian activist and fisherman, I’d like to clarify some misperceptions that exaggerate federal management authority in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (“Sanctuary for All,” Jan. 16).
The Sanctuary, which is jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Hawaii through the DLNR, is currently reviewing its management plan, as required by law. This periodic review began in 2010 with a series of public scoping meetings, and a draft revised management plan will be released for public comment by spring 2014.
Management of the Sanctuary remains a partnership between the State and federal government. Through the Compact Agreement, signed in 1998, the State and NOAA made clear that the governor has not conveyed title to nor relinquished authority over any State-owned submerged lands and waters or other State-owned resources by agreeing to include State-owned resources within the Sanctuary boundary. In short–as the State of Hawaii, our lands and our resources belong to us. The Compact Agreement also makes clear that the State of Hawaii and NOAA will collaborate in the management of the Sanctuary. You can find these same protections in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the Act of Congress that established the Sanctuary–these laws assert that no management actions can occur in State waters without the approval of the governor, and that no fishing regulations shall take effect in State waters until established by our Board of Land and Natural Resources.
As part of the review of its management plan, the Sanctuary is actively considering shifting its focus from single-species management–humpback whales–to ecosystem-based management, which considers the importance of preserving, using and enhancing the biocultural resources of Hawaii. But these conversations must be based in fact and realistically evaluate the challenges and opportunities the State of Hawaii faces in managing our natural and cultural resources now and into the future.
William J. Aila, Jr. Chair, DLNR