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Legislation

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Act (HIHWNMS Act)
National Marine Sanctuary Program Regulations
The National Marine Sanctuaries Act
Other Federal Laws
State Laws

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Act (HIHWNMS Act)

The HIHWNMS Act designated the sanctuary in 1992 and requires the Secretary of Commerce to develop a comprehensive management plan with implementing regulations to govern the overall management of the site and to protect sanctuary resources and qualities.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Act [Subtitle C of Public Law 102-587, as amended by Pub. L. 104-283] 25  

National Marine Sanctuary Program Regulations

The National Marine Sanctuary Program Regulations detail the activities prohibited in the sanctuary.  For example, it is illegal to pursue humpback whales or approach them closer than 100 yards.

Title 15, Chapter IX, Part 922, Subpart Q, Section. 922.184, Prohibited Activities

(a) The following activities are prohibited and thus unlawful for any person to conduct or cause to be conducted.

(1) approaching, or causing a vessel or other object to approach, within the Sanctuary, by any means, within 100 yards of any humpback whale except as authorized under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as amended;

(2) operating any aircraft above the Sanctuary within 1,000 feet of any humpback whale except when in any designated flight corridor for takeoff or landing from an airport or runway or as authorized under the MMPA and the ESA;

(3) taking any humpback whale in the Sanctuary except as authorized under the MMPA and the ESA;

(4) possessing within the Sanctuary (regardless of where taken) any living or dead humpback whale or part thereof taken in violation of the MMPA or the ESA; 

(5) discharging or depositing any material or other matter in the Sanctuary; altering the seabed of the Sanctuary, or discharging or depositing any material or other matter outside the Sanctuary if the discharge or deposit subsequently enters and injures a humpback whale or humpback whale habitat; provided that: such activity requires a Federal or State permit, license, lease, or other authorization, and is conducted:

~ without such permit, license, lease, or other authorization; or

~ not in compliance with the terms or conditions of such permit, license, lease, or other authorization.

(6) interfering with, obstructing, delaying or preventing an investigation, search, seizure or disposition of seized property in connection with enforcement of either of the Acts or any regulations issued under either of the Acts.

(b) The prohibitions in paragraphs (a) (1) - (5) of the §922.184 do not apply to activities necessary to respond to emergencies threatening life, property or the environment; or to activities necessary for valid law enforcement purposes. However, while such activities are not subject to paragraphs (a) (1) - (5) of the SEC. 922.184, this paragraph (b) does not exempt the activity from the underlying prohibition or restriction under other applicable laws and regulations (e.g., MMPA, ESA, Clean Water Act). 

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The National Marine Sanctuaries Act

The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate and manage areas of the marine environment with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archeological, educational, or esthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries.  Day-to-day management of national marine sanctuaries has been delegated by the Secretary of Commerce to the National Marine Sanctuary Program.  The primary objective of the NMSA is to protect marine resources, such as coral reefs, sunken historical vessels or unique habitats.

The NMSA provides several tools for protecting designated national marine sanctuaries.  For example—

1.  If the Secretary finds a federal action is likely to destroy, cause the loss of, or injure a sanctuary resource, the NMSP is required to recommend reasonable and prudent alternatives that will protect sanctuary resources if implemented by the agency in taking the action.  [See section 304(d) of the NMSA.]

2.  The NMSA also allows the Secretary to issue regulations for each sanctuary designated and the system as a whole that, among other things, specify the types of activities that can and cannot occur within the sanctuary.  [See section 308 of the NMSA.]

3.  The NMSA requires the preparation and periodic updating of management plans that guide day-to-day activities at each sanctuary in furtherance of the goals of that sanctuary.  [See sections 304(a) and 304(e) of the NMSA.]

4.  The NMSA also provides for the assessment of civil penalties up to $100,000 per day per violation and the assessment of damages against people that injure sanctuary resources.  [See sections 306, 307, and 312 of the NMSA.]

Implementing the Legislation

The majority of national marine sanctuaries are designated through the administrative process.  Thirteen areas have been designated national marine sanctuaries.  Seven of the thirteen sanctuaries have been designated since 1990.  These sanctuaries include both nearshore and offshore areas.  They provide protection for sensitive marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests, habitat used by important or vulnerable marine species, and historically significant shipwrecks and artifacts. 

History of the NMSA

Since the NMSA was enacted in 1972, it has been amended and reauthorized in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000.  It is up for reauthorization again in 2005.  Among other things, the amendments to the NMSA over the years have modified the process of how sites are designated, given the Secretary the authority to issue special use permits, enhanced the ability to enforce the Act, and established civil liability for injury to sanctuary resources. For a detailed historical timeline click here


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Other Federal Laws

The following Federal laws also provide protection for marine mammals in Hawai‘i.

View related excerpts:
Endangered Species Act (as amended 1990)
United States Code of Federal Regulations (Parts 222 & Parts 216)
Marine Mammal Protection Act (as amended 1994)

View full Acts:
Endangered Species Act (as amended 1990)
Marine Mammal Protection Act (As amended 1994)


State Laws

The State of Hawai‘i’s Wildlife Law provides protection for marine mammals.

View related excerpts:
Hawai`i's Wildlife Law


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