HONOLULU, Hawai‘i – This week, representatives of the Department of Commerce and Department of the Interior hosted two public meetings to hear the public’s views on a proposal from U.S. Senator Brian Schatz to expand Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Regional Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Allen Tom and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Regional Director Robyn Thorson hosted meetings on the islands of Oahu and Kauai, to listen, learn and understand the local vision for this proposed expansion of Papahānaumokuākea. There were over 500 participants in attendance at the two meetings. Tom and Thorson heard comments from those opposed to and supportive of the expansion, which would make Papahānaumokuākea the largest protected area on earth.
Tom and Thorson were joined at the meetings by representatives from U.S. Senators Schatz and Mazie Hirono’s offices. Senator Schatz had invited the Administration to visit Hawai‘i to hear from the local community about their visions for expansion of Papahānaumokuākea and gain a better understanding of local views related to the type of large scale marine conservation being proposed.
“It is an honor to hear from so many passionate individuals who spoke from the heart about their perspectives” said FWS Regional Director Thorson.
In addition to the two meetings the public was provided an opportunity to drop off written comments at locations on Oahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island.
“Over the last few days we have heard from individuals who rely on the ocean for their livelihood and are worried about the future of Hawaii’s fishing industry,” said NOAA Regional Administrator Tom. “We also listened to those who see this as an opportunity to bolster Native Hawaiian leadership in marine conservation – locally, nationally and globally.”
Currently, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is managed by 3 Co-Trustee agencies, the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of the Interior and the State of Hawai‘i. Senator Schatz’s proposal includes adding the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as the 4 th Co- Trustee for the newly expanded Monument. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a public agency responsible for improving the well-being of Native Hawaiians.
The comments received at the meetings, as well as those submitted in writing from other Hawaiian islands, will be reviewed by the departments of Commerce and Interior. Both meetings were also videotaped, click here to view the meetings.