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NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Celebrates Opening of New Sanctuary Learning Center

For immediate release:  April 13, 2009
Contact:    Christine Brammer
(808) 397-2651 ext. 252 

NOAA officials joined two U.S. senators, state, and local community leaders today at the grand opening of the Sanctuary Learning Center for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kimokeo Kapahulehua were praised for their vision, dedication and support of the sanctuary and the new NOAA facility, located in Kihei, Maui.

“The National Humpback Whale Sanctuary Education Center will serve as a valuable resource to so many as we continue to protect the humpback whales and the ocean in which they live. People of all ages will benefit from having this center available to them from scientists, and students to the general public,” said Sen. Inouye. 

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka and Laura Thielen, Director of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, were also among the dignitaries at the ceremony.

“Scientists have an obligation to share what they know with the broader world. I know this facility will greatly enhance the sanctuary’s education, research and ocean protection efforts,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Here among the unique and pristine waters of this sanctuary, I’m reminded of the important connections we play in this beautiful ecosystem. We are grateful for the support Sen. Inouye, Kimokeo Kapahulehua and others have provided to make it a reality.”

The new 4,600-square-foot, single-story learning center is located next to the sanctuary office building, adjacent to the historic Ko’ie’ie Hawaiian fishpond and sanctuary waters. The learning center provides facilities for offices and classroom space for school groups and public programs.

“Maui County is the heart of the humpback whale sanctuary,” said Naomi McIntosh, sanctuary superintendent. “This center will serve the sanctuary and the community by providing a new venue to work together to protect Hawaii’s humpback whales.”

The facility also will enhance interaction with the greater Pacific and international marine mammal management community. Delegates from the United States, Fiji, Australia, Philippines, Uruguay, Guatemala and Brazil visited the learning center during the recent International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas.

Construction on the $6.5 million building began in 2004 and was completed earlier this year.

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