FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Connie Barclay
The Northwestern Hawaiian Island Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve has been finalized. Completion of the reserve followed a 30-day public comment period during which more than 8,400 comments were received through seven public hearings in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., e-mails and written comments.
As a result of these comments, changes were made to strengthen the protections for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, and provide greater allowance for existing bottom fishing and recreational fishing activities within the reserve.
"These final changes to the reserve represent an excellent framework to enable us to protect the resource while ensuring local interests are represented," said Robert P. Smith, coordinator of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. "I'm excited about the direction of this program and look forward to the ongoing public process in designating a National Marine Sanctuary."
On Jan. 18, 2001, after consideration of the comments received, certain conservation measures were revised and the Reserve Preservation Areas, with some modifications, were made permanent. With this action, the establishment of the reserve, including the conservation measures and permanent Reserve Preservation Areas, is complete.
Changes to certain conservation measures include:
Changes made to the Reserve Preservation Areas include:
On Dec. 4, 2000, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve was established pursuant to the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, as amended by the National Marine Sanctuaries Amendments Act of 2000. The reserve was created after extensive public input was received at a series of public visioning sessions held throughout the main Hawaiian Islands and in Washington, D.C. The reserve encompasses an area of the marine waters, valuable coral reefs, and submerged lands of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands extending approximately 1200 nautical miles long and 100 nautical miles wide. As part of the reserve, conservation measures restricting some activities throughout the reserve were established, and Reserve Preservation Areas around certain islands, atolls and banks were created. With certain exceptions, all consumptive uses are restricted within the Reserve Preservation Areas.
Under the act, no closure area can become permanent until opportunity for adequate notice and comment is provided. Accordingly, a 30 day public comment period from December 2000 to January 2001 was held on the conservation measures for the reserve and whether to make the Reserve Preservation Areas permanent. In order to provide this opportunity for public comment, a Web site was established and seven public hearings were held, six throughout the main Hawaiian Islands, and one in Washington, D.C.
The secretary of commerce/NOAA will develop a reserve operations plan for the management of the reserve and begin the process of designating the reserve as a National Marine Sanctuary. Building on the measures established in the reserve, the sanctuary designation process will provide additional opportunity for extensive public input and involvement in determining the future management of this valuable area of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
For further information, please visit the
Web site at: http://hawaiireef.noaa.gov.