NOAA Moves to Strengthen Protections for NW Hawaiian Islands coral ecosystem

Roger B Griffis Roger.B.Griffis at
Wed Mar 20 08:52:21 EST 2002

For distribution - Apologies for cross-postings

News Release
3/18/2002 09:57 AM
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Ocean Agency Unveils Four Actions to Protect Corals, Designate Reserve as
National Marine Sanctuary

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) is announcing today four inter-related actions to protect marine life
and the pristine condition of the ecosystem of the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands.  The agency's aim is to maintain strong protections for the
nation's largest coral reef area and begin the process for designating the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve (Reserve) as a
National Marine Sanctuary.

"The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which contain approximately 70 percent
of the nation's coral reefs, will be protected under this comprehensive
proposal," said retired Navy VADM Conrad Lautenbacher, Undersecretary of
Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.  "It's a great opportunity to safeguard
this vibrant coral reef ecosystem for long-term environmental and economic

Designating the Reserve as a National Marine Sanctuary would enable
comprehensive and coordinated management of the area.  The Reserve would be
the nation's 14th National Marine Sanctuary, becoming part of a system
of sanctuaries around the country.

"The National Marine Sanctuaries are our nation's best vehicles for marine
protection, in terms of ecosystem management, research, education and
enforcement," said Robert Smith, NOAA's Reserve Coordinator for the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Reserve.  "Public input is critical
to planning for the future of this remote and fragile marine wilderness.
>From the outset, the public will be participants in considering how best to
conserve biological, historical and cultural resources of global
significance for future generations."

The first set of actions is aimed at providing long term management of the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands marine resources.  They include:
* Initiating the process for designating the Reserve as a National Marine
* Issuing the draft Reserve Operations Plan for public comment

The sanctuary proposal begins with a public scoping process that solicits
information and comments from the public on the range and significance of
issues related to the designation and management of the proposed
sanctuary. The results of this scoping process will assist NOAA in drafting
a management plan and an environmental impact statement. Scoping will be
held for 60 days with public meetings beginning in April.

Under the Sanctuaries Act, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council
will have an opportunity to develop draft fishery regulations as part of the
sanctuary designation process.

The executive order creating the Reserve calls for a Reserve Operation Plan,
which provides a guide for management of the Reserve during the sanctuary
designation process.  The draft plan addresses priority issues such as
marine debris, cultural resources and enforcement. The draft Reserve
Operations Plan is now available for public review and comment
for sixty days. The final plan is expected shortly thereafter.

Other measures include:
* Release of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council's Coral Reef
Ecosystem Fishery Management Plan (CREFMP) for public comment
* Release of a final rule concerning the harvest of precious corals

The Coral Reef Ecosystem Fishery Management Plan seeks to foster sustainable
use of coral reef ecosystem resources in an ecologically and culturally
sensitive manner; minimize adverse human impacts on coral
reef ecosystems through establishment of marine protected areas; and provide
for sustainable participation by fishing communities in the ecosystem
fisheries.  It was approved by the Western Pacific Fishery Management
Council in June 2001, and is the first ecosystem-based fishery management
plan to be developed under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and
Management Act.  Its release for public comment is the third step in
developing a broad ecosystem-based management approach to the marine assets
of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Some provisions of the CREFMP appear to be in conflict with the management
regime for the Reserve and may require further action.  The public has until
5 p.m. on May 18, 2002, to comment on the proposed plan to NOAA's
National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).

The fourth part of the ecosystem-based strategy is a series of six
management measures developed by the Western Pacific Fishery Management
Council that update the  council's regulations implementing the Fishery
Management Plan for Precious Corals.  The measures set gear restrictions,
size limits and definitions governing the harvest of precious-coral
resources.  Additionally, as required by the management regime for the
Reserve, the harvesting of precious coral from the Reserve will be
prohibited.  The regulations will become effective April 17, 2002.

"Currently, there is very little harvesting under way in this pristine part
of our marine environment," said Charles Karnella, director of the NOAA
Fisheries Pacific Islands Area Office.   "These management measures will
help keep this area the valuable resource it is today."

Comments on the proposed sanctuary designation and draft Reserve Operations
Plan may be submitted to NOAA at any of the public scoping meetings, or in
writing to the following address:

Aulani Wilhelm, 6700 Kalanianaole Highway, #215, Honolulu, Hawaii 96825;
via email at nwhi at

Written comments on the proposed Coral Reef Ecosystems Fishery Management
Plan may be sent to:

Dr. Charles Karnella, Administrator; Pacific Islands Office, NOAA
Fisheries; 1161 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 110; Honolulu, HI 96815.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living
marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and
conservation of o our marine mammals and other protected
marine species and their habitat.  To learn more about NOAA Fisheries,
please visit

NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS) is dedicated to exploring,
understanding, conserving and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOS
balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its
mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities,
sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.
To learn more about NOS, please visit

  Roger B. Griffis <roger.b.griffis at>
  Policy Advisor
  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  U.S. Department of Commerce

  Roger B. Griffis
  Policy Advisor                                <roger.b.griffis at>
  National Oceanic and Atmospheric
  U.S. Department of Commerce
  NOAA/NOS/ORR Rm 10116 1305 East West Highway  Pager: 877-632-5370
  Silver Spring                                 Fax: 301-713-4389
  MD                                            Work: 301-713-2989 x 115
  Additional Information:
  Last Name     Griffis
  First Name    Roger
  Version       2.1

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