Hawaiian leaders seek expansion of marine conservation area

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 5:34 AM

But the president of the HI Longline Organization said Friday the lobbying effort is using Hawaiian culture as an excuse to near off more waters to fishermen.

Hawaiian leaders seek expansion of marine conservation area

A grouping of Native Hawaiian leaders have urged President Barack Obama to widen what'south already one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world.

But the president of the HI Longline Organization said Friday the lobbying effort is using Hawaiian culture as an excuse to near off more waters to fishermen.

Papahanaumokuakea (pah-pah-HAH-now-moh-cuh-ah-cay-ah) Marine National Monument is a one hundred forty.000-square-mile area of the Pacific where remote islands, atolls, islets and coral reefs serve as habitat for some of the world'south most endangered species.

The region is also a sacred space in the history, culture and cosmology of Native Hawaiians.

"Mr. President, as an island boy from Hawaii, we believe that you realize the significance of the ocean to our islands," said a letter signed by leaders of the expansion push.

They wish Obama to widen the monument to the full two hundred nautical-mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exclusive economic zone while keeping the main Hawaiian islands exterior the boundaries.

"While the current boundary of Papahanaumokuakea includes vital habitat for a no of species, it doesn't fully defend habitat and travel routes for several species including Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, sharks, whales, Black-footed and Laysan albatrosses as well as other species," reads the letter signed by Dept of Hawaiian Homelands Deputy Chairman William Aila, Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe, Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson and others.

If Obama expands the monument, it'd be the largest protected area on Earth, they say.

Sean Martin, president of the HI Longline Association, questioned whether there'south been significant cultural action beyond the current boundary. He believes environmental organizations with deep pockets are using Hawaiian culture to thrust their agenda at the expense of longline fishermen.

"I think that plays good, sounds good," he said of highlighting the monument'south cultural significance. "But the reality is that it'south a very necessary area we work in... We're into continuing maintain access for U. S. fishermen to fish in U. S. waters."

The organization includes 140 vessels, he said.

Aila said the expansion effort isn't about pitting fishermen against conservation and culture.

"We're protecting the fishermen that fish out of Kauai and Niihau," he said. "Then there'south the other folks that go out a tiny further into the proposed expansion areas."

Aila described himself as a "small-boat fisherman" and said protecting the expanded area will authorize tuna stocks to rebound, creating more fishing opportunities across the state. "It'south not that longliners can't fish, they'll simply go fish someplace else," he said.

U. S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat who represents Hawaii, said he urged the White House to send representatives for meetings in HI on the issue before making a decision.

"The responsible and sustainable practices of our longline fleet have resulted in Honolulu becoming one of the nation's ten most productive fishing ports," he said in a statement that also notes the equally necessary significance of the monument to Native Hawaiians.

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