Drawing the line: the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Written by on September 6, 2016 in Fish, Policy & Ocean Law

By Astrid Hsu

Hawaiian Monk Seal swimming in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Hawaiian Monk Seal swimming in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Photo credit: NOAA.

As National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday last week, President Obama quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument from 140,000 to 582,578 square miles. The park, established by President George W. Bush in 2006, encompasses Hawaii and the Midway Islands, and is now twice the size of Texas. A historic decision, Obama (who grew up in Hawaii) acted in response to the threats of climate change on the local ecosystems. Obama used his executive authority through the U.S. Antiquities Act to expand Papahānaumokuākea’s boundaries and regulations — absolutely no commercial fishing or new mining.

While conservationists around the world are celebrating, such a decision has also sparked quite the debate. Some fishers, especially the longline fishery, see this expansion as a blow to the Hawaiian culture and economy. The longline fishery produces most of Hawaii’s tuna and generates 85% of Hawaii’s fishery revenue. However, 40% of its landings were caught in Hawaii’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), now closed off to fishing due the monument’s expansion. While fishing is allowed in traditional grounds off the coasts of Kauai and Niihau, some locals argue that it’s a compromise that is giving Hawaiians the shorter end of the stick.

Regardless, this decision will carry a legacy and serve as a precedent for future national park expansions. It is also a reminder that marine conservation is often complicated, having to balance socioeconomic and environmental factors to achieve a viable solution.

Read more here: Hawaii Is Now Home to an Ocean Reserve Twice the Size of Texas

Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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