Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Decision delayed on sanctuary near Niihau

By Associated Press


LIHUE » People who fish in the ocean surrounding the privately owned island of Niihau are concerned that area may be included in the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Greg Holzman said he has fished off Niihau's coast for nearly 30 years. Fishermen worry they could lose fishing rights if such a proposal goes through, he said.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday was scheduled to consider a request to delegate authority to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for a memorandum of agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Niihau Ranch LLC, The Garden Island reported.

The agreement would continue discussion about establishing a sanctuary around the land.

The department, however, announced Wednesday it had deferred the proposal "in order to do some more community outreach before bringing it before the board," said Elia Herman, state co-manager of the whale sanctuary.

Sen. Ron Kouchi (D, Kauai, Niihau) said the public process related to the agreement was "deficient."

"There should be some kind of public meeting with all the affected parties in the same room," he said.

Holzman, a West Kauai resident, said many Kauai fishermen ply waters around Niihau but do not go ashore or destroy resources on the island owned by the Robinson family.

"Within all the islands, including Niihau, there are a few bad apples," he wrote to the board. "If (DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement) and the Robinsons and the prosecutors would sit down and work out a plan to stop violators we would be better off (than) adding the federal government to the mix. The federal sanctuary looks at national interests not local communities as its priority."

The memorandum of agreement would be a framework for cooperation, Herman wrote in her request. Invasive species, climate change, marine debris, fishing, poaching, monk seal disturbance and pressure for use of natural resources are presenting challenges for the island, according to the memorandum of agreement.

Inclusion of Niihau in the sanctuary is one of several options the state is considering, Herman said.

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