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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

FAQS on Proposed Papahānaumokuākea Expansion

Q: Where is Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument?

A: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Papahānaumokuākea) was established in June 2006 by Proclamation 8031 issued by President George W. Bush, using his powers under the Antiquities Act. It begins approximately 165 miles northwest of Kauaʻi and continues 1,200 miles to Kure Atoll, and currently encompasses 139,797 square miles. The current boundaries extend 50 nautical miles from the shore of each of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI).

Q: What is the proposal for additional protection?

A: In March 2016, the Papahānaumokuākea – Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group (NHCWG) specified that additional protection was necessary for Papahānaumokuākea. It was requested that the additional protection be a boundary expansion to the full 200-nautical-mile extent of the United States Economic Exclusive Zone in the NWHI and that the waters around Kauaʻi and Niʻihau remain outside of this expansion. In June 2016, after considering input from stakeholders, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz formally requested that President Obama exercise his authority under the Antiquities Act to expand the boundaries of Papahānaumokuākea. However, approximately 40,000 square miles of potential area for expansion closest to Kauaʻi and Niʻihau will remain open to commercial and recreational fishing with no restrictions on access. The waters around the main Hawaiian Islands out to the 200-nautical-mile limit of the U.S. Economic Exclusive Zone will also remain open to ocean users.

Q: Why is additional protection necessary?

A: Additional protection holds the promise of bolstering vulnerable fish populations, improving the ecosystem for endangered species, addressing climate change, and preserving the integrity of a culturally significant seascape for Native Hawaiians. The area proposed for additional protection includes a fishery that has been managed by the Federal Government since 1976.  Bigeye tuna is a commercially important species targeted in this fishery by U.S. flagged longline vessels.  The International Union for the Conservation of Nature “Red List” classifies bigeye tuna as vulnerable to a high risk of extinction with significant declines over the last decade.  The latest available data from the Federal Government shows that in 2014 alone, Hawaiʻi based longline vessels deployed 47,100,000 hooks.  The additional protection will create a puʻuhonua –a refuge– where bigeye tuna and other fish species can mature and reproduce.  Other species such as sharks, turtles, and seabirds that are caught as bycatch in the NWHI will also be protected.

In addition, numerous seamounts known to have a high level of species biodiversity are within the proposed expansion area.  These seamounts and other associated deep reef sites contain a variety of corals, sponges, fish, and marine life, many of which have not been studied yet.  In fact, the oldest living creature on Earth, a 4,000-year-old coral, is found within the proposed expansion area.  With a growing worldwide interest to begin deep-sea mineral mining, the proposed expansion will assure Papahānaumokuākea is protected from this developing industry.

With less than 2% being under some form of protection today, the world’s oceans are under constant and growing threats from various sources such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Our ancestors lived in a reciprocal relationship with the environment for centuries, which promoted an understanding that the health of the ocean is directly related to the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of man. This additional protection for Papahānaumokuākea will allow future generations to have a relationship with a healthy ocean ecosystem uncompromised by human exploitation.  Finally, as Hōkūleʻa voyages around the world promoting the message of Mālama Honua and ocean resource protection, this is an opportunity to show our commitment as Hawaiʻi to the continued protection of our resources for a sustainable future.

Q: Does OHA have a position on the proposal for additional protection?

A: Yes. On May 26, 2016, the OHA Board of Trustees voted to conditionally support the proposed boundary expansion of Papahānaumokuākea provided that:

  1. OHA is elevated to a Co-Trustee position;
  2. The cultural significance of the expansion area to Native Hawaiians is recognized; and
  3. There is no boundary expansion southeast towards the islands of Ni‘ihau and Kaua‘i.

Q: What is the Native Hawaiian cultural significance of Papahānaumokuākea?

A: Papahānaumokuākea is a region that is rooted in Native Hawaiian accounts of creation and origin, as a cosmological place, where all life began, and returns to after death. A traditional understanding of the ocean as a cultural seascape helps to understand the need for additional protection for Papahānaumokuākea. The ocean is not an empty space, but rather a living entity – a godly entity with tremendous cultural meaning as the home for a host of marine and avian life that are connected to us genealogically, enhancing our understanding and responsibility for their protection. From this perspective, Papahānaumokuākea is an ʻāina akua – a sacred realm that man visits to seek mana and ‘ike from our akua and kūpuna. Not an area to be exploited.

Q: Is the additional protection consistent with traditional resource management practices?

A: Yes. Our kūpuna were masters of adaptation continuously observing the environment and the changes within.  We must strive to do the same.  The knowledge passed down from our kūpuna continues to grow, evolve, and transform through time and it is important that we adapt our resource management practices to match the needs of our environment.  The traditional proverb ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi provides a reminder that all knowledge does not come from one source and what worked in one time and place may not work in another time and place.  In a changing world with ever increasing pressure on our resources we must integrate traditional practices with new ideas to meet the challenges of today.

One traditional Hawaiian practice that is relevant in managing natural resources today is that of a puʻuhonua, which literally translates to “a place of refuge” or “sanctuary.” In ancient times a person would seek out a puʻuhonua for shelter and safety. Not only is it meant for us as kānaka, but is also a concept meant for all creatures.  One kupuna who fished in the waters of Papahānaumokuākea for many years, recognized the negative human impacts on the area and called for the creation of a puʻuhonua so our natural resources could rebound.

The concept of a puʻuhonua as a place of refuge encompasses the idea behind this proposed expansion.  In traditional times, the migratory patterns of bigeye tuna were seen as a natural occurrence that man could not control.  Since then, humans have developed an ability to follow and cull these fish for weeks at a time, and hundreds of miles out to sea until quotas are met.  This additional protection will create a needed puʻuhonua free from fishing pressure.  A place of refuge provides balance between exploiting resources and the need for natural patterns of our environment to occur.

Q: Does additional protection mean that the Hawaiʻi Longline fishing fleet will stop fishing?

A: No. The additional protection simply changes where all fishing effort will occur and will not reduce the overall catch for the Hawaiʻi longline fleet. Official records from the Hawaiʻi longline fleet shows that in recent years, as little as 5% of the fleet’s catch comes from the area being considered for additional protection.

The Hawaiʻi longline fleet will continue to fish to meet established quotas for bigeye tuna. The National Marine Fisheries Service set the 2016 quota for the Hawaiʻi longline fleet at 3,554 metric tons (approximately 7.8 million pounds) in the Western and Central Pacific. These quotas are not affected by the placement of marine protected areas.

On July 22, 2016, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that the Western and Central Pacific quota for bigeye tuna was met, and the fishery was closed. There is a process in place that allows the Hawaiʻi longline fleet to buy up to an additional 3,000 metric tons of quota from U.S. territories in the Pacific and keep fishing.

Q: Does additional protection increase Hawaiʻi’s dependence on imported food?

A: No. Hawaiʻi’s dependence on imported food has occurred over decades and the expansion will not affect, or have very minimal effects on the ability for commercial vessels to bring in fish, as noted in the previous question. In the last four years combined, OHA has provided over $5 million dollars in grants to organizations and events that directly help increase Hawaiʻi’s sustainable food production and cultivation.  These organizations and events vary from loko iʻa restoration, pono fishing practices, loʻi kalo restoration and vegetable production.  In 2015 alone, 68,200 pounds of food was harvested in Hawaiʻi as a result of traditional resource management practices supported by OHA grants. There are many other organizations making contributions equal to OHA to address this important issue.

Q: What about Native Hawaiian access to and resource gathering in Papahānaumokuākea?

A: While permits are required to access the Marine National Monument, it is a myth that existing protections have harmed Native Hawaiian access. To the contrary, OHA uses its role on the Monument Management Board to help Native Hawaiians understand, access, and utilize resources from Papahānaumokuākea. In the 10 years that a permit has been required to access Papahānaumokuākea, no Native Hawaiian who has applied for a permit has been denied. OHA’s increased management capacity is directly related to the growing numbers of our beneficiaries who are accessing the area.

Subsistence fishing is allowed, but it is required that the catch be consumed in Papahānaumokuākea. This requirement should be viewed in the proper context: the area is remote and access is not casual or simple, and requires a voyage across hundreds of miles of ocean.

The management structure of Papahānaumokuākea does allow for the collection of certain protected resources for use in the perpetuation of traditional and customary practices. One example is a process that allows for the collection of seabird feathers and bones. These resources can be brought out of Papahānaumokuākea and have been used by Native Hawaiian practitioners in the construction of kāhili which are now on display at the Queen Emma Summer Palace and ‘Iolani Palace Throne Room. Other cultural implements are actively created and used by practitioners in Makahiki ceremonies and tattooing practices.

Q: Will additional protection expand Federal jurisdiction?

A: No. The waters that would be included in the expansion are already claimed by the Federal Government.   The U.S. Department of Commerce-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service has been the sole manager of the area since 1976. Rather than expanding Federal jurisdiction, extending the Monument will bring these waters under a co-management agreement where – if elevated to Co-Trustee – OHA will be able to advocate for Native Hawaiian rights and access from within the executive management structure.

Q: Will additional protection diminish State of Hawaiʻi jurisdiction?

A: No. When Papahānaumokuākea was established in 2006, Proclamation 8031 was specific that the jurisdiction of the State of Hawaiʻi is not diminished. An act of Congress in 1953 granted states title to the resources located within submerged lands out to three miles from their coastline. With the exception of Midway Atoll, the State claims jurisdiction over the submerged lands and nearshore waters 0-3 miles from the coastlines of all the NWHI and created a State Marine Refuge in 2005. The State also claims jurisdiction over Kure Atoll, which was established as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1993. All of these areas under State jurisdiction are within the current boundaries of Papahānaumokuākea.

Q: How is Papahānaumokuākea currently managed?

A: Papahānaumokuākea is currently managed by three parties, collectively referred to as the Co-Trustees: the Department of Commerce (DOC) through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior (DOI) through the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the State of Hawaiʻi. The jurisdictions and authorities of these remain in place and were neither diminished nor enlarged upon by the establishment of Papahānaumokuākea.

The Co-Trustees were established in December 2006, when the DOC, DOI and the State of Hawaiʻi entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to coordinate on management activities. Representatives of the Co-Trustees form a Senior Executive Board, while on-the-ground activities are implemented and coordinated by a Monument Management Board (MMB) comprised of seven different agencies—six representing the Co-Trustees, and OHA. In 2008, the MMB completed a 15-year management plan that describes a comprehensive and coordinated ecosystem approach to management.

Q: How is OHA involved in management?

A: OHA requested to be a Co-Trustee prior to the execution of the MOA in 2006 and was instead given a position on the Monument Management Board (MMB). As a full participant on the MMB over the last decade, OHA has provided a strong body of evidence of our commitment and ability to be a responsible partner for the effective management of Papahānaumokuākea. We have also steadily increased resources towards our co-management responsibilities, including two full-time staff positions and a programmatic budget. Our role on the MMB has enabled us to advocate for greater Native Hawaiian access and use of cultural resources within the Monument, and OHA believes we can do even more if we are elevated to Co-Trustee for the expanded Monument.

Q: Why is OHA seeking a Co-Trustee position?

Filling a fourth Co-Trustee position will afford OHA membership on the Senior Executive Board (SEB). Participation by OHA at the SEB level ensures that the Native Hawaiian rights are directly represented at every level of policy- and decision-making for Papahānaumokuākea. For nearly a decade, OHA has asserted that the absence of the Native Hawaiian voice representing our own interests at the Co-Trustee level is a flaw in the Papahānaumokuākea co-management structure. Co-Trustee status will provide the opportunity to shape decision making in favor of Native Hawaiian rights at the executive level of management.

Q: Who supports OHA being represented at the Co-Trustee level?

A: Since the establishment of the Marine National Monument a decade ago, OHA has been consistently reminded by Native Hawaiians that there should be a Native Hawaiian role in the executive leadership of that sacred space. More recently, in December 2015, Governor David Ige wrote to the U.S. Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior requesting an amendment to the 2006 Memorandum of Agreement to add OHA as the fourth Co-Trustee. The Papahānaumokuākea -Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council and Senator Schatz also support the Native Hawaiian voice being rightfully placed at the Co-Trustee level of governance for Papahānaumokuākea.

Q: How will a reestablished Native Hawaiian governing entity be involved in Papahānaumokuākea?

In its 2008 Monument Management Plan, the current Co-Trustees acknowledged that, despite the significance of Papahānaumokuākea to Hawaiʻi’s indigenous people, the direct representation of the Native Hawaiian voice was missing in the co-management structure above the MMB. The plan clearly identified the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as an entity that could fill that void, in the absence of a federally recognized Native Hawaiian governing entity.

The expansion of the existing Monument, if coupled with the elevation of OHA to the Co-Trustee level, could have a positive impact on the future Native Hawaiian governing entity. The existing Monument has allowed for greater protection of natural and cultural

resources, while establishing a clear process for Native Hawaiians to access and learn more about this sacred space. Elevating OHA to Co-Trustee of the expanded Monument would allow Native Hawaiians to build a track record of co-managing the area at the executive level, a responsibility that the agency would be in a position to transfer to the future Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Q: Will there be an opportunity for public input?

NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced two public meetings in addition to locations where written comments may be submitted.

Oʻahu: Monday, August 1, 2016
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Filipino Community Center
94-428 Mokuola Street, Suite 302
Waipahu, HI 96797
Kauaʻi: Tuesday, August 2, 2016
4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Kauaʻi Community College Performing Arts Center
3-1901 Kaumualiʻi Hwy
Lihue, HI 96766

Written comments will be accepted in person during the public meetings and may also be submitted, in person, August 1 and 2 at the following locations during normal business hours:

Honolulu Services Center
Pier 38, Honolulu Harbor
1139 N. Nimitz Hwy, Suite 220
Honolulu, HI 96817
Sanctuary Visitor Center
726 South Kihei Road
Kihei, HI 96753
Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
76 Kamehameha Ave
Hilo, HI 96720


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