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Public Scoping on Proposed Sanctuary in NWHI

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii are holding public meetings April 6-18 on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Management Plan for the proposed Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Sanctuary. The draft sanctuary EIS alternatives include boundaries that would overlap portions of the existing Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Fishing regulations, including prohibiting commercial fishing and permitting non-commercial fishing, are included in the draft sanctuary EIS. In conjunction with Presidential Proclamation 9478, the Council developed an amendment to its Hawai‘i Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan to prohibit commercial fishing and permit non-commercial fishing. The amendment also creates a permit for Native Hawaiian Subsistence Fishing, with a consideration for cost recovery of fishing costs such as fuel, bait, ice and food.

Representatives from the Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service will be available at the meetings to answer questions regarding recommended fishing regulations.

Those interested in fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) should attend these meetings to have their voices heard or provide written comments by May 7, 2024.  To provide written comments directly, click here.

New Pacific Strategy

Fisheries are critical to the welfare of Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Currently, China is vying for greater influence in the Pacific. With concerns over food security at an all-time high, the importance of fisheries to the people of the Western Pacific Region has never been so apparent. The United States must act now to ensure the prosperity of the U.S. Pacific Islands and protect national interests by strengthening its positions in international fisheries negotiations. Specifically the United States must improve negotiations within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, where 60% of the global tuna supply is managed.

Green Sea Turtles

Sea turtle harvest may seem like a foreign concept today, especially in the United States where sea turtles have been federally protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than four decades. But across the Pacific Islands and throughout the world, sea turtles have been utilized as important natural and cultural resources for millennia. Today, the legal harvest of sea turtles and their eggs is still allowed in many parts of the world. The Council has recently revisited this long-standing issue of resuming a sustainable level of cultural harvest of green sea turtles in Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. Pacific Islands, recognizing that multiple generations have passed since the last legal take and there is an urgency to pass on the cultural and traditional ecological knowledge before it disappears.

Proposed PRI Sanctuary

On March 24, 2023, President Biden directed the Secretary of Commerce to consider initiating the designation process for a proposed national marine sanctuary in the Pacific Remote Islands (PRI).

The proposed sanctuary would overlay and extend the PRI Marine National Monument. The Council determined the existing fishing regulations meet the goals and objectives of the proposed sanctuary and recommended to NOAA that additional fishing regulations are not necessary. More regulations would not provide any additional conservation benefit and would add a layer of costly bureaucracy.

 The Council’s regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) established comprehensive protection since the 1980s and continues to provide long-lasting conservation and management for the PRI fishery ecosystem, habitat and resources. Commercial pelagic fisheries in the PRI are vital to the economy and culture of American Samoa, as well as other pelagic fisheries including the Hawaii longline fishery.

The PRI Marine National Monument closed all waters from 0 to 200 nautical miles around Wake Atoll, Johnston Atoll and Jarvis Island, and 0 to 50 nm from Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef and Howland and Baker Islands. Commercial fishing is prohibited in those waters and non-commercial and recreational charter fishing are allowed with permits and reporting. For more information, visit Marine Spatial Management.

Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ)

Because of our geography and ethnic and cultural diversity in the U.S. Pacific Islands, the Council has documented EEJ issues in its management mission since 1976. However, it has been difficult to address and resolve problems associated with these injustices. President Biden’s 2021 Executive Orders addressing EEJ issues (EO 13985 and EO 14031) have allowed the Council the advantage of working within government agencies to lead discussions and evaluate EEJ in U.S. fisheries management.