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Join the movement to expand Papahanaumokuakea

By Staff | Jun 16, 2016

There is a massive campaign underway to lobby the state and federal government to expand Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Last Thursday alone, a diverse coalition delivered more than 67,000 letters and petitions in support of the Papahanaumokuakea expansion to the governor’s Maui office.

The proposal calls for expanding Papahanaumokuakea from 50 nautical miles to the 200-nautical-mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.

The expansion would not include the waters surrounding Niihau and Kauai, as well as two weather buoys used by recreational anglers.

Supporters say the action would protect rich, unspoiled marine resources within the monument and help in the recovery of greatly depleted resources within the Main Hawaiian Islands.

“Though vast and perhaps once considered inexhaustible, the Pacific Ocean is suffering from multiple stresses which will become more dire without additional conservation efforts,” said Rob Parsons, Maui County’s environmental coordinator, who joined Native Hawaiians and local fishermen to deliver the letters and petitions.

Marine researchers explained that highly migratory species – such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins, seabirds, sharks and tuna – forage outside the area of the existing monument.

In addition, in the ten years since the original marine preserve designation, scientific expeditions outside of the current monument boundaries and within the proposed expansion area have discovered high-density communities in which most of the animals seen are completely unknown to science, making a compelling case for expansion.

This includes black corals estimated at more than 4,500 years old, described as the old growth redwood forests of the ocean.

“This part of the Pacific represents a perfect region for large-scale protection,” said Dr. Richard Pyle, associate zoologist in ichthyology, Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum.

“Because of the span in latitude, it represents a buffer to ocean warming and serves as a reservoir for species threatened in more tropical regions. The monument expansion will help ensure safe passage for larvae of corals, fishes and other reef-associated species and help recolonize reefs devastated by the effects of climate change.”

The statewide, community-driven effort includes a coalition of kupuna, fishermen, educators, cultural practitioners, non-profits, community groups, scientists, religious organizations, veterans and many others across the Hawaiian Islands and beyond.

Join in this important effort and support expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

If you are interested in learning more about the movement, Sol Kaho?ohalahala of Kupa ?Aina o Lanai will present a talk, “Expanding Papahanaumokuakea: A Sanctuary for Ocean Heritage,” on Thursday, June 16, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary at 726 South Kihei Road. The event is free and open to the public.

More information is also available at www.ExpandPMNM.com and www.facebook.com/ExpandPMNM.