People who want to protect our moana nui for everyone, including Hawai‘i, need to be heard in regard to Obama’s proposed PRIMNM expansion. The Town Hall discussion will be held on August 11 at the Ala Moana Hotel, Carnation Room, 410 Atkinson Drive Honolulu, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Even if you can’t attend the Town Hall meeting, you can send comments to PRI@noaa.gov, deadline is August 15.
This notice reposted from an email sent out by KAHEA: The Hawaii-Environmental Alliance.
Our oceans are threatened by overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, and climate change. According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014, about 90 percent of global fish stocks are overfished or fully-fished. Researchers found that fully protected marine reserves are essential to rebuilding species abundance and diversity and increasing resilience to climate change. At least 20-30 percent of our ocean should be in protected marine reserves to ensure the productivity of marine fisheries and overall ocean health. Currently less than 1 percent of the ocean is protected in no-take marine reserves.
On August 11, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host a Town Hall meeting in Honolulu to hear your comments on U.S. President Obama’s recent proposal to expand – by nearly nine-fold -the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) to the outermost reaches of the already existing U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). PRIMNM currently consists of 5 uninhabited island or atoll complexes (Wake, Jarvis, Howland and Baker Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll) plus the ocean surrounding each.
The expanded PRIMNM would be the largest monument in the world, and commercial fishing would be banned in its 200 square mile area. Unsurprisingly, the most vehement criticisms of PRIMNM expansion have come from members of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac). Wespac says the Pacific Remote Islands are important U.S. tuna fisheries and American Samoan purse seine fisheries; these fisheries don’t harm coral reef habitats in the area; and local subsistence fishers depend on access to these areas. The Pacific Remote islands are uninhabited, save for conservation personnel, and the area accounts for only about 5% of their tuna catch.
PRIMNM expansion complements actions of Pacific Island nations that are most affected by the health of our oceans. We do not often support U.S. federal actions in the Pacific, but PRIMNM expansion aligns with policies of putting marine conservation above commercial fishing interests on which many Pacific nations – Palau, Kiribati, and Cook Islands – have already led the way. Earlier this year, Palau announced it would protect 80 percent of Palau’s EEZ; Kiribati is closing two significant areas to commercial fishing; and Cook Islands have created a no-take marine reserve 50 miles around the southern islands in the archipelago.
The expanded PRIMNM would protect irreplaceable natural resources, including:
- 241 seamounts, undersea mountains that are hotspots of biodiversity;
- migratory species, such as dolphins, that use these seamounts as stopovers on trips between the Hawaiian Islands and other Pacific areas;
- 14 million seabirds representing 19 species, which use these areas as feeding and breeding grounds;
- Reef and open ocean habitat for protected species of sea turtles and marine mammals;
- Deep water coral ecosystems, a variety of unique coral species live at great ocean depths, some of which are up to 5,000 years old;
Further, deep seabed mining – the extraction of minerals from the seafloor or sediment below the seabed – is prohibited within the existing PRIMNM and the boundary expansion should protect more of the Pacific. Mining destroys life on the seafloor in the target area; it pollutes adjacent waters and seafloor; heavy metals and sediment discharged from seabed mining can accumulate in fish; and sediment plumes that suffocate life can travel thousands of miles from a mining operation. In Papua New Guinea, where the first mining lease was granted in an area known as Solwara 1, an estimated US $740 million per hectare is needed to repair damage to the biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, and ecosystem function caused by seabed mining.