Papahanaumokuakea National Monument Review Opposed in Hawai'i

Jun 27, 2017

Papahanaumokuakea National Monument.
Credit Papahanaumokuakea National Monument archives

More than two dozen National Monuments are being reviewed by the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce, including the largest U.S monument encompassing the Northern Hawaiian Islands.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

President Donald Trump’s Executive Order directs the U.S. Interior and Commerce secretaries to solicit public and stakeholder comments to determine if 26 national monument designations were made in compliance with the Antiquities Act.  The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the reserves under review.   Hawaiian fisherman, William Aila, has been involved in the preservation of the northwestern Hawaiian islands monument since its inception.

Hawaiian fisherman, William Aila, and Earthjustice attorney, Paul Achitoff.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“I think the impetus for this is purely political.  It’s obviously an attempt to undo whatever President Obama had done.  It is clear that Papahānaumokuākea met all of the criteria for its original nomination and declaration.”

Director and research professor at the U-H Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Bob Richmond, says Western Science and Native Hawaiian knowledge are in harmony.  He also says President Barak Obama’s 2016 executive order expanding Papahanaumokuakea created the perfect marine protected area.

U.H. Kewalo Marine Laboratory director and research professor, Bob Richmond.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“When you expand the boundary of Papahānaumokuākea from the initial 50 miles to the full 200, you not only make a bigger home base for fish to enter, to get bigger, to reproduce more, but you’re protecting the corners of connectivity that allow more fish to be able to gain that protection.  And in fisheries, it’s all about “BFS.”  And that does not mean “best friends forever.”  It’s not the texting version.  It’s the big fat females.  When you double the size of a female fish, you can increase her egg output by a thousand-fold.”Richmond says managing human activities will ensure all fisheries are protected from collapse.  Earthjustice managing attorney Paul Achitoff says the long-line fishing industry, named WESTPAC, opposed the expansion of the monument based on claims of revenue loss due to a scarcity of big eye tuna.  Achitoff says these claims are false.

“Prior to the expansion of the monument, the long-liners were getting less than 5 percent of their big eye catch within what is now the expanded area of the monument.  They have the entire ocean to fish in and they were succeeding in getting over 95 percent of their catch outside that area.  So the economic impact on the long-line fishery is negligible.”

Now, the Hawaiian Fisherman, Marine Researcher, and the Attorney, have joined forces to ask for public support for Papahanaumokuakea.

(Aila) “It’s not so much the size, it’s also the location, the remoteness, the tremendous numbers of protected species -- whales, turtles, seals – plus the traditional customary practices that are founded in the specialness of this area.”  (Richmond)  “Most of the scientific consensus is we need to set about 30 percent of our oceans aside in protection as a legacy for the future.  And right now we’re at less than 3 percent.”  (Achitoff)  “The real question is whether President Trump can unilaterally undesignate them; no president has ever succeeded in doing that and I don’t believe he would succeed if he tries to do it in this case.”

Go to:  expandpmnm.com for more information.  The public comment period ends July 10th.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.