Letter to the President about the Papahanamokuakea Marine National Monument

April 1, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United State of America

Dear Mr. President:

As a member of the Hawai’i State Legislature I write in support of expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

For my constituents in the Native Hawaiian community, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are where life began. Today, marine life thrives within the monument because it was protected by your predecessor 10 years ago. However, there are important cultural and biological resources that fall outside the current boundary of the monument. Expanding Papahanaumokuakea will help protect these resources and increase our resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Expanding the monument to the full 200 nautical mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – excluding the waters around of Ni’ihau and Kauai – would protect one of the most unique ocean ecosystems on the planet. Within this diverse isolated region, there are more than 7,000 marine species, and scientists estimate that more than a quarter of those are endemic. The area is one of the few remaining predator-dominated ecosystems in the world, with strong populations of sharks, Hawaiian grouper and other large predatory fish that have been heavily overfished elsewhere.

While the current boundary of Papahanaumokuakea includes vital habitat for a number of species, it does not fully protect habitat and travel routes for several species including Hawaiian Monk Seals, green sea turtles, sharks, whales, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses as well as other species. It is important to note that all of these biological species are also considered cultural species by Native Hawaiians.

The area being proposed for expansion is not a major fishing ground according to publicly available data from NOAA. In fact, log books show that the effort in the region has been dramatically decreasing over the last five years. It is well known that the Hawai’i longline catch quotas are set by the negotiations that take place at the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission so an expanded monument will not reduce catch and therefore have no economic impact on the fishery.

Finally, Mr. President, Hawai’i is honored to host the World Conservation Congress inSeptember of this year. This global event presents an opportunity for Hawai’i the United States to lead the world once again on one of humanity’s greatest challenges – improving the health of the ocean. Expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is the single biggest step you can take to leave a historical legacy for future generations.

Mahalo for your consideration.

Aloha,

Maile S.L. Shimabukuro

District 21 – Hawai’ i State Senate

 

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