Expand Hawaii Whale Sanctuary

SUBHEAD: Our protected areas do not include many areas heavily used by whales in Hawaii... especially on Kauai and Niihau.

By Diana Labedz on 29 July 2010 for Surfriders Foundation - 

 Image above: Detail of whale sanctuary areas (dark blue line) set against high humpback whale activity areas (red areas) within study area (yellow area). The lightly dotted area is the 100 fathom isobar (600 foot depth contour). Note Kauai and Niihau are underprotected. Click to enlarge. From Hawaiian Humpback National Marine Sanctuary study of surface sightings 1993-2003. 

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary should be a place where visiting humpback whales and resident whales can feel safe to come and give birth and raise their young. In reality, there is no such safe place here. Even in Hawaiian waters designated as "sanctuary”, there is no protection or enforcement that would make it safe for whales.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary has been in existence since the early nineties, but it has never included all the areas used by the whales, nor has the sanctuary itself been set up to enact any rules or regulations designed to protect whales. There has been an extended period of public education through the current sanctuary management, but the time has come to put this education into effect and create a real, fully functional sanctuary designed to do what its name implies and protect whales in Hawaiian coastal waters.

 The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary is now preparing a Management Plan Review (new strategic plan) and they have asked for public input. We feel strongly that, in addition to continued education, the “new” sanctuary must graduate from being an educational forum to being a real protective entity.

There must be changes to the sanctuary boundaries, management and accountability structure, and to the mission of the sanctuary that will enable us to protect whales and other sea life in Hawaiian coastal waters. The Surfrider Foundation, Kauai chapter along with the newly formed Kohola Mana Ohana has asked that the new strategic plan for the sanctuary include the following recommendations:

 1. Expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary boundaries to include all whale habitat areas. The sanctuary must include all the areas where whales are known to congregate especially during the mating and birthing season. For instance, the area of Kauai that is designated as a sanctuary is a tiny strip of coast near the Kilauea lighthouse, a small portion of the eastern Kauai habitat. This area does not include any of the documented habitat on the West and South sides of Kauai, nor the Island of Niihau.

  2. Areas within the Hawaiian Sanctuary must include speed limits with enforcement. A major cause of whale death is ship strikes. We propose a 14 knot per hour speed limit during whale season, to reduce risk of whale strikes. To be effective there must be enforcement with consequences of this speed limit within the sanctuaries. There has been a nearly 500% increase in reported whale vessel strikes in Hawaiian waters since reports were tabulated in 1975. Boat speed is clearly a factor in the incidence of collisions, whit about 80% of all strikes occurring with vessels traveling between 10-30 knots. Collisions resulting in severe injury or death are typically caused by boats traveling at 14 knots or higher. 50% of all strikes occur suddenly, with no warning, making it impossible for vessels to take evasive action to avoid collision. Strikes with motorized vehicles are ten times higher than those with sailboats, and 57% of all strikes involve calves or juvenile whales.  

3. There should be noise limits for all Hawaiian sanctuary areas, with no exemptions. Whales navigate by sound; heavy ship traffic and sonar can affect a whale’s ability to survive. For instance, active (noise producing) sonar can be ten thousand times louder than a rocket launch, and sonar has been known to injure marine mammals’ ears. Sonar must not be used during whale season, or in places that include marine mammals that navigate or communicate using sound.  

4. There must be more regulatory collaboration between land and ocean uses, especially regarding pollution that would affect the sanctuary. Pollution from land has a large affect on the marine habitat. Before pollution permits) are issued, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary board must be allowed to comment on all NPDES requests for permits to pollute, with the understanding that there should be no dumping in any sanctuary waters.  

5. Designated areas of the Hawaiian Humpback Whale Sanctuary should not be open to commercial or recreational fishing. Once the boundaries of the sanctuaries are expanded to include the documented whale habitat, we then can begin to protect the end-to-end environment of these coastal marine areas. This approach would allow Hawaii to create its first Marine Protected area (MPA), and undertake local fisheries management. Less than 0.5 percent of the world's oceans are fully protected from extractive or destructive activities. Large, no-take marine reserves have been shown to blunt the effects of excessive commercial fishing by offering a refuge for sea life to breed and spawn, providing for healthier fisheries as the fish swim into surrounding areas, and thus ensuring more resilient coastal economies. Because the ecosystems in ocean reserves are healthier, they are also more resistant to the damage caused by pollution, climate change and a wide range of other development activities.  

6. Fishing nets need to be used cautiously in the Hawaiian sanctuary, with fishermen accountable for retrieving all equipment. Renegade fishing nets are the major known cause of human-related whale deaths. The sanctuary board should recommend programs that reward fish net reporting, and fish nets should be labeled as to their owners.  

7. A rehab center for injured whales needs to be established on Kauai, with an education and research support capability.  

8. The Sanctuary must have a transparent budget, and be accountable for all spending and funding decisions. Currently, it is impossible to see how the Sanctuary budget is spent. It appears that most sanctuary funding is currently spent on education for children. Educational outreach is a good thing, but we have reached a point where we must take next steps to ensure the actual viability of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary Time to put the education to work.

 9. The Board of Directors for the Sanctuaries must be more representative of the entire community. Currently, the Sanctuary Advisory Board includes two members of the Hawaii SuperFerry board and two military personal. There are few scientists, and no environmental experts on the board, and there is no regional representation. (IS THIS TRUE?).  

10. The Advisory Board for the sanctuary should be tasked with creating enforceable policies with rules, and ensure that funding includes effective regulatory oversight. Policies and regulations that have no enforcement will not be effective. The sanctuary education program must include a focus on creating awareness of safe operating procedures in all sanctuary areas. We urge all ocean defenders to become involved in helping to create the next strategic plan for theHawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary. The time for action is now. If not us, who? If not now, when? For more information http://groups.google.com/group/cetacean-celebration The Public Scoping Meeting Dates for Kauai  

Lihue on Saturday, August 14 from 9:am to noon
Chiefess Kamabkahelei Middle School Cafeteria 4431 Nuhou Street, Lihue HI 96766
Kilauea on Saturday, August 14 from 4pm to 7pm
Kauaii Christian Academy Library 4000 Kilauea Road, Kilauea, HI 96754

If you cannot attend the meetings you can send written testimony to; Management Plan Review Coordinator Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary 6600 Kalanianaole Highway, Suite 301 Honolulu, HI 96825 Fax to (808)397.2650 Email to: hihwmanagementplan@noaa.gov Comments will be accepted through October 16, 2010. Contact the Surfrider Foundation at SurfriderKauai@gmail.com and contact Kohola Mana Ohana at oceanmana@hawaiiantel.net

 • Diana Labebz is a progressive activist living in Kekaha and is a candidate for mayor of Kauai. .


ecoGear Canada said...

many many thanks for what you are trying to do. If there is anything we can do to help your quest to expand the territories for whales, you only need say so!
Writing from Canada where our first ocean marine park was declared this year, we know the power of the netizen!

Anonymous said...

The problem is people, too many on too small an island.
Something's going to suffer, why not let it be those who are so outspoken?
If you really want to do something about it, get off the islands.
Go now, do it for the whales!
Maybe you can deduct the cost of the move from your income tax.

MandB said...

Recreational fishing limitations? Why would you antagonize the local populations in that way? Local fishermen want the ocean to be healthy, and they could be your strongest supporters if you were able to bring them into the effort rather than alienate them. What incentive do they have to help this process if you are restricting their right to fish for subsistence? Isn't there a middle road-- for example, requiring fishing licenses to limit takes rather than a flat-out ban?

Anonymous said...

Amen to MandB, You proposing destroying a very important part of local culture by preventing fishermen from providing food and sustenance from the sea which we are a part of. You fail to mention inclusion of any commercial or recreational fishermen nor are native Hawaiians mentioned as part of the "community" represented by this board of directors. You will be alienating a substantial portion of the local population with your all or nothing attitude. AUWE!

Dundee said...

Whale populations have rebounded to the point of pre-whaleing days (approx 15,000)and now instead of relinquishing the sanctuary areas as agreed upon, they now want more. Fact is, they know this and now want to put many other animals under this umbrella and actually expand the sanctuary to include all of Hawaii's coastal waters out to three miles. These sanctuary people are the wolves in sheeps clothing! It's all about creating/keeping jobs for themselves. The Humpback whales are doing great, the honu (Green sea turtles) are doing great, the Spinner Dolphin are doing great, and there are more and more Hawaiian Monk Seals reported every year in the main Hawaiian islands. These people have relocated the Hawaiian monk seals from the northwestern Hawaiian islands down to the main islands. If you talk to the kupuna (old timers) they'll tell you they never used to see Monk seals. These sanctuary people want total control of our waters. No fishing, no diving, no surfing, no nothing! Don't be fooled prople! Educate yourselfs and stand up for your rights. A hui ho

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