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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOAA 04 - R426
March 18, 2004

CONTACT:

Sarah Marquis
National Marine Sanctuary Program
(949) 300-1322

NOAA’S RESERVE DRAFT OPERATIONS PLAN FOR THE NORTHWESTERN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS CORAL REEF ECOSYSTEM AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

The final draft of the Reserve Operations Plan for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve is now available for public comment. The Reserve Operations Plan (ROP), prepared by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), contains the recommendations of the Reserve Advisory Council, a 25-member advisory body representing local and national interests. The ROP was prepared in consultation with the State of Hawai’i and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve was created on Dec. 4, 2000, by a presidential executive order to protect the federal waters surrounding the islands and atolls. In keeping with the executive order, NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program (NOAA Sanctuaries) is conducting a sanctuary designation process to consider incorporating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve into the National Marine Sanctuary System.

The executive order calls for an ROP, which serves as a guide for management of the reserve during the sanctuary designation process. The plan addresses priority issues such as marine debris, cultural resources, research and monitoring. The draft final ROP is now available for public review. Comments on the draft final ROP will be accepted through May 15, 2004. The final ROP will be issued shortly thereafter.

“Public input on both the ROP and the designation process is critical to planning for the future of this remote and fragile marine wilderness,” said Robert P. Smith, NOAA’s reserve coordinator for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. “From the outset, the public has participated in considering how best to conserve biological, historical and cultural resources of global significance for future generations.”

To view the ROP and find out more about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve and the sanctuary designation process, visit www.hawaiireef.noaa.gov or call (808) 397-2660.

Comments on the final draft of the ROP may be submitted in writing to the following address: Robert P. Smith 308 Kamehameha Avenue, Suite 203 Hilo, HI 96720. Fax: (808) 933-8186 or via email at nwhi@noaa.gov.

Comprising two-thirds of the Hawaiian Archipelago, the longest chain of coral-ringed islands in the world, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are a mostly uninhabited chain of small islands, atolls, reefs and submerged banks that begin northwest of the populated main Hawaiian Islands. The majority of all coral reefs in the United States are in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands waters, and it is home to species protected by state and federal law. The reserve is the largest conservation project under the U.S. flag and is administered by NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP).

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase public awareness of the nation’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve encompass more than 150,000 square miles of natural, cultural and historic resources in the nation’s oceans and Great Lakes.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

The Commerce Department’s NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.


On the Web:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
National Ocean Service - http://oceanservice.noaa.gov
National Marine Sanctuary Program - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve - http://hawaiireef.noaa.gov

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