The Future of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Setting the standard for the care of the marine managed area.
By Jennifer Smith
Once the training ground for celestial navigation, and the site for generations of Native Hawaiian practices of cultural and spiritual rights, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands make up nearly three-fourths of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Realizing the significance of the islands and the increasing threats to native habitats from invasive species and increasing outside interest in the area, the islands were recognized as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in June 2006.
Two years later, the three managing agencies have returned to the Main Hawaiian Islands seeking input from local communities on a 1200 page Draft Monument Management Plan. The document provides a 15 year plan for the fully protected marine managed area.
“My concern is whether or not you have looked to the practitioners,” said Vanda Hanakahi, cultural specialist and chairperson of the `Aha Kiole Advisory Committee. “You need to talk to the people who have knowledge.”
Hanakahi is particularly concerned about the accessibility of the area to practitioners and Native Hawaiian fishermen. “Traditional practitioners need to be given special consideration.”
“We agree this should be preserved,” said Opu`ulani Albino, Hawaiian Immersion School educator, echoing the need to include more local knowledge in the plan.
Albino asked how much community feedback has been received, and suggested adding people from Molokai on the panel. She said cultural practitioners should be involved on every level because they have the `ike.
As a Hawaiian, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Superintendent ‘Aulani Wilhelm said she struggles with the need to have more Hawaiian involvement all the time. She thanked the community for “the most engaged testimony we have had by far.”
“I would like to see more of this talk in the school system,” said Molokai High School graduate Kawai Puaa-Spencer. “If it was, I would have gone to school more,” he said half jokingly.
Puaa-Spencer and three other `opio present stressed the importance of educating students on Papahanaumokuakea, and preserving resources throughout all of the Hawaiian Islands.
“We need to better manage our ecosystem,” said local fisherman Kekama Helm. He agreed that the area could be better managed, but said he doesn’t believe in no catch zones for Hawaiian fishermen. “We realize that with practicing comes responsibility.”
While only about a dozen community members attended the public meeting held last week Monday at Kulana `Oiwi, those who did attend provided well-received comments.
Mikiala Pescaia thanked the Papahanaumokuakea staff for coming to Molokai. She said the organization has been very good about returning to the island to host public meetings, and said the low attendance was a positive sign.
“If they’re not here, it’s a good thing,” Pescaia said, explaining that the plan must be a good one; otherwise the community would be there to say otherwise.
Nearly 14 representatives from Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), NOAA, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) attended the meeting.
Since the government declaration of the area as a recognized Monument, Papahanaumokuakea staff helped to reopen Midway Atoll, unify the permitting process, restore native habitats, and remove countless invasive species.
It took nearly 16 months of preparation to create an inter-agency jurisdiction that met the needs of all three agencies and even now, the plan will be revisited throughout the years to gage progress.
Testimony on the Papahanaumokuakea Draft Monument Management Plan will be received through July 8. Copies of the plan are available at any Hawaii State library, at www.papahanaumokuakea.gov, or by calling 808.792.9530.
To submit comments email PMNM_MMP_Comments@fws.gov or send to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Box 50167, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850.