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Sanctuary Designation


In March 1982, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that certain areas around the Hawaiian Islands should become a national marine sanctuary. Public workshops were held to allow scientists and the community to discuss the purpose of such a sanctuary and to evaluate the issues related to the management of a sanctuary. Soon after, some members of the community voiced opposition, fearing that a marine sanctuary would bring additional restrictions on fishing and vessel traffic. In response to these concerns, Hawai`i's then Governor Anyoshi suspended further consideration of the site in early 1984.

Six years later, in October 1990, President George Bush directed the Secretary of Defense to immediately discontinue the use of Kaho`olawe as a weapons range. Congress once again directed NOAA to determine the feasibility of establishing a national marine sanctuary in the waters around the island and elsewhere in Hawai`i.

Congress, in consultation with the State of Hawai`i, designated the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on November 4, 1992. The Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Act identified the following purposes for the sanctuary: to protect humpback whales and their habitat within the sanctuary; to educate and interpret for the public the relationship of humpback whales and the Hawaiian Islands marine environment; to manage human uses of the sanctuary consistent with the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Act and the National Marine Sanctuary Act; and to identify marine resources and ecosystems of national significance for possible inclusion in the sanctuary.

Designation in State of Hawai`i waters in 1997

In response to public concern about what a sanctuary presence would mean to the people of Hawai`i, the Act allowed the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Governor, to modify the boundaries of the sanctuary to fulfill the purposes of the Act. Numerous public meetings and hearings were held on each of the main Hawaiian Islands. The National Marine Sanctuary Program (now known as the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries) also established a Sanctuary Advisory Council, made up of user groups and government agencies, to provide advice and recommendations for the site's continued development and management.

The public, though still divided in its support, was assured that the sanctuary essentially would incorporate existing restrictions to enhance the protection of humpback whales and their habitat. Those restrictions primarily dealt with approaching and harassment of the whale population, discharge of wastes into the water, and alteration of the sea bed.

On June 5, 1997, over four years after the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was designated the nation's 12th marine sanctuary, Hawai`i Governor Benjamin Cayetano formally approved of the sanctuary in state waters.

2002 Management Plan Review and Reapproval of State Partnership

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) periodically reviews sanctuary management plans with extensive involvement from local stakeholders and national communities. Management plan review provides an opportunity for sanctuary staff and the public to shape the future direction and management of each sanctuary. In general, during a five-year review, a Sanctuary may evaluate, and possibly revise, their operation and management framework, program areas such as education, and research, site-specific regulations, and the appropriateness of boundary and management zones. The Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary completed its first management plan review process in 2002. The existing management plan was revised through the cooperative efforts of staff, the Sanctuary Advisory Council, the State of Hawaii, and the local community. In September 2002, Governor Cayetano approved the final revised management plan for implementation in state waters.


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