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Proposed whale sanctuary expansion to be discussed at public meeting

A public meeting will be held Tuesday evening to discuss the proposed expansion of a federal sanctuary at Maunalua Bay.

Under a proposal Introduced in March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to increase the size of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary by 17 percent and expand its focus to the protection of all marine species within its boundaries. The move  would essentially transition the sanctuary from one that serves a single species to one charged with protecting whole ecosystems.

While the public comment period on the matter ended last month, Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board chairman Greg Knudsen said area residents still have questions about the proposal. “There are concerns among a range of users,” Knudsen said.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources director Suzanne Case and Malia Chow, director of the whale sanctuary will address concerns at a meeting set for7 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight at Hahaione Elementary School Cafeteria.

Some environmental groups, including Malama Maunalua, are supporting the proposed sanctuary’s expansion and creation of a special sanctuary management area supporting the restoration of the bay. Opponents have expressed concern that the plan and its associated regulations would unduly restrict recreational ocean use and negatively affect businesses that operate in coastal areas.

Knudsen said the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood hasn’t taken any position on the proposal but there are worries among Maunalua Bay’s many users, particularly recreational and commercial users, including canoe clubs, about whether they will be able to continue using the bay.

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