Obama expands Papahanaumokuakea marine reserve; plans Oahu trip
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Obama expands Papahanaumokuakea marine reserve; plans Oahu trip

  • JAMM AQUINO / NOV. 13, 2011

    President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at Ko Olina in West Oahu during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Honolulu in 2011.

  • NOAA / RICHARD PYLE/ BISHOP MUSEUM/ SEPT. 30, 2014

    A deep reef fish community off Kure Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument consists of fish found no where else but Hawaii.

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President Barack Obama will expand the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument by hundreds of thousands of square miles, creating the world’s largest marine reserve and permanently protecting coral reefs and deep sea marine habitats from activities such as commercial fishing and mineral mining, the White House announced this evening.

The designation will quadruple the size of the current protected area surrounding the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was designated as a national monument by George W. Bush in 2006.

The White House also announced that Obama will address the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu on Wednesday. The conference, which is being held in the United States for the first time, is expected to attract as many as 10,000 people, including government dignitaries, scientists, environmentalists and business leaders. The conference will focus on the climate crisis, the unprecedented rate at which species are becoming extinct and the effects that damaged ecosystems are having on the world’s economies.

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued “VIP security zone” restrictions for the waters around Kailua and Honolulu Airport from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

Obama will then travel next Thursday to Midway Atoll, located within Papahanaumokuakea, to mark the significance of the monument expansion and “highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our public lands and waters more important than ever,” according to a White House press release.

“It is now fair to say that the president has as strong as an environmental legacy and track record as any president in generations,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who was singled out by the Obama administration as playing a crucial role in the president’s decision, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Obama’s decision follows months of debate in Hawaii between the longline fishing industry, which has opposed the expansion, and the plan’s supporters, which include a long list of local lawmakers; hundreds of scientists; and environmental organizations including The Pew Charitable Trusts.

In addition to members of the longline fishing industry, the proposed expansion has been opposed by former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and former Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi, as well as more than two dozen state lawmakers, including House Speaker Joe Souki and Senate President Ron Kouchi. Kouchi later changed his position to support expansion.

Opponents of the expansion argued that it would negatively effect Hawaii’s fishing industry, potentially driving up local fish prices and increasing imports. At a protest rally at the Capitol last month, critics also argued that the federal government shouldn’t be dictating what happens in local waters.

“The ocean belongs to us,” Ariyoshi told the media at the rally. “We ought to be the ones who decide what kind of use to make of the ocean. And we don’t want someone from the outside to come, or people from the outside to come, and tell us how to live with the ocean.”

The federal government has long had jurisdiction over the area that will be protected, however, and the idea of expanding the monument has had local backing.

In January, prominent Native Hawaiian leaders sent Obama a letter proposing the idea, arguing that the waters surrounding the Northwest Hawaiian Islands contained sharks and large, predatory fish that have been heavily overfished elsewhere and were in need of protection.

The letter was signed by William Aila, deputy director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society; and Kamanaopono Crabbe, head of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, among others.

Schatz noted that the rhetoric for and against expansion had grown heated in recent weeks and that he hoped both sides could now work toward finding common ground.

“We are quite confident that this is in the best interest of not just the ecology of the Pacific Ocean, but our ability to catch and eat fish going forward,” he said. “This is not a situation of whether we want to catch fish or look at fish. It’s about making sure the ocean is sustainable for generations to come.”

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono also issued a statement congratulating the president for his leadership in protecting ocean resources.

“President Obama’s efforts to enhance protections for our ocean ecosystem will help to combat climate change, preserve biodiversity, and honor cultural traditions,” Hirono wrote. “As part of his announcement, I appreciate the president’s recognition of the importance of commercial fishing to Hawaii’s way of life and our shared goal of supporting Hawaii’s sustainable pelagic fisheries.”

Obama will expand the protected area around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands using the Antiquities Act of 1906, which affords him unilateral power to designate U.S. lands and waters as national monuments.

Specifically, the monument will be expanded from 139,800 square miles to 582,578 square miles — an area about twice the size of Texas. The expansion is expected to provide critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including endangered whales and sea turtles, and black coral, which are believed to be the longest-living marine species in the world, capable of living for more than 4,500 years, according to the White House.

Commercial fishing and mineral extraction will be prohibited in the monument area. However, recreational fishing, removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices and scientific research will be allowed in the area by permit. The originally proposed boundaries of the monument have also been pushed back around Kauai and Niihau to ensure that small boat fishermen can still fish in the nearby waters.

Federal agencies will also sign an agreement with Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs that will provide the state agencies with a greater management role in the area.

As “ocean acidification, warming and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems,” the White House said in its press release.

Obama’s decision came on the heals of an announcement by Gov. David Ige that after listening to both sides of the debate he supported expanding Papahanaumokuakea.

“You may be familiar with the Hawaiian proverb, E ola ke kai, e ola kakou — as the ocean thrives, so do we,” Ige wrote in a letter to Obama on Wednesday. “This proposal strikes the right balance at this time for the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, and it can be a model for sustainability in the other oceans of planet Earth.”

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    • Ariyoshi has always been crooked and connected. He don’t have a clue about the environment. All he’s thinking about is his greasy palms. Thank you President Obama and the rest of the supporters of this measure. I think he got this one right.

  • Oh my god! Our President and Commander-in-Chief will grace his presence in Hawaii. HPD’s motocycle officers better not crash into each other during the President’s motorcade. It’s not safe riding too close to each other.

    • Foodland poke is imported frozen poke cubes anyway, so this doesn’t affect them, even though they may want u to believe it.

    • Foodland poke is imported frozen cubes, so this wont affect them, even though they might want you to believe so.

  • Just another example of Federal overreach disguised as being for the environment. The vast majority of you will never, ever be allowed
    to even visit the monument area. Humans are viewed as an invasive species whose number needs to be reduced severely
    in order to protect mother nature. Only the rich and privileged will be allowed to visit. Kind of like the Middle Ages where the serfs
    were not allowed to hunt on lands declared as belonging to the nobility. These preserves/monuments/parks will be imposed world wide
    as part of the One World agenda. What serfs allowed to live will exist only to serve the nobility, just like before.

    • As Scrooge said…reduce the surplus population. Unfortunately he may have been right. There are too many of us on this planet.

  • Just goes to show you how effective this POTUS has been.

    As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

    Shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

    • Seriously? You can at least explain how “Uranium One” is even remotely related to this story. You’re way out in left field. If the company was a threat on par with the longline fishing industry, I’m sure Greenpeace would have made a huge stink about it.

      • Where was this clown on 9/11-12/2012. He ran the blacks and Latinos into the ground. He was part of the Clinton Gate, the Founder of ISIS. He lied about the 400 million ransom. Now, he’s all concerned about this? He’s got his priorities mixed up.

  • So you thought the Obama traffic nightmare, after eight years and eight Christmas seasons, was finally over and done with? GUESS AGAIN, LOCALS! This “president” will take any excuse in the world to come hit the gold course with his per-vert friends Bobby and the rest of the pothead “Choom Gang” from Punahou. Wonder how many rounds they’ll play in just a few days? Wonder how many millions this trip will cost our taxpayers? Not like our schools are overheating, or we’ve got a billions-over-budget rail disaster to pay for.

    When it comes to Obama, nothing is too fine or too expensive. No doubt, Michelle and the girls will be on AF-2 to come stay in their $6k/night luxury getaway for a few days as well, also on your dime.

    Just when you thought it was over, this “president” shows you he can still stick it up your @$$ and smile.

    • Check your facts. Daughters will be in school. This s a four day trip. ,…like over heated schools and rail are REALLY his fault ??? Get your facts straight !!

      • Malia already graduated. She is on one year vacation. This time taxpayer gets to pay for the stay in Kailua. AF 1 cost $250K per hour. So costs for AF1 alone will exceed $7 million for the total trip. Then there are the support aircraft and the back up AF1. OnOh, by the way, CCof Honolulu taxpayers gets stuck with the cost of the security. Bend over.

  • Another taxpayer funded vacation. More golfing less helping out those going through a bad time.
    The good news is Hawaii taxpayers will be on the hook for added security.

  • I do not like government overeach… but maybe , just maybe some of the longline boats will leave??? something good will come of this??

  • Hawaii will never be best in the nation for business with policies like this. We have homelessness, unfunded liabilities from COFA, crumbling infrastructure, a poor educational system, but hey, we got an ocean monument 4x the size of California.

    It’s not a proud moment.

    • Hey, and more turtles to attract sharks. Lucky swimmers. We’re so lucky to have this giant monument. Thanks for a lot of nothing to Schatz and POTUS. Wasn’t the whale sanctuary big enough?

  • Great. Something else we can’t pay for – and taking away the ability to eat local fish – thanks for nothing.

    I especially like how Hirono and Ige caved in the end. Gotta vote out those losers in two years when local fish prices are sky high!!!

  • when opala is on midway, i hope a snooty tern drops one big galagala
    right on top of his nappy head
    auwe
    as wy hod

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