NOAA abandons plan to expand Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is abandoning its idea to expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary around Hawaii.

Officials made the decision after listening to input from the community.

NOAA wanted to expand the sanctuary to cover the ecosystem instead of just a single species.

But many protested the idea due to its potential impact on the management of Maunalua Bay, which has been part of the sanctuary for decades.

The expansion would have come with additional regulations to protect the marine environment, which many opponents argued was already under the jurisdiction of the state.

John Armor, Acting Director, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, released the following statement:

After years of work by Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) staff and Sanctuary Advisory Council members, NOAA issued a draft management plan and proposed rule in March 2015, and opened a public process and comment period.

That proposal contemplated a move from a single species national marine sanctuary that focuses solely on the humpback whale and its habitat to a national marine sanctuary with an expanded boundary and broader ecosystem scope. NOAA received a great deal of input from the community from all sides.

In addition, HIHWNMS is co-managed by the state of Hawaii; therefore, any management action must be supported by the state. On January 22, 2016 NOAA received a letter from the state of Hawaii regarding the future of the sanctuary with concerns regarding the March 2015 proposal.

After listening to input from the community and the state, NOAA is withdrawing the proposal to expand sanctuary conservation around Hawaii.

HIHWNMS will continue in its present form, conserving and protecting humpback whales and providing needed research support and public education. NOAA will publish a notice in the Federal Register formally withdrawing the March 2015 proposal.

We look forward to continuing our partnership and working together with the State of Hawaii and local communities.

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