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April 13, 2009

NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Celebrates Opening of New Sanctuary
Learning Center in Kihei

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, newly appointed administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, joined officials and community leaders at the Grand Opening of the Sanctuary Learning Center for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and Kimokeo Kapahulehua were recognized at the event for their vision, dedication and support of the sanctuary and the new facility, located in Kihei, Maui.

“The Sanctuary Learning Center will help NOAA and all its community partners to carry out its mission in protecting humpback whales and their habitat through expanded education programs and research and resource protection activities,” said Dr. Lubchenco.

The new 4,600 square-foot single story learning center is located next to the sanctuary office building adjacent to the historic Ko’ie’ie Hawaiian fishpond and sanctuary waters. The Sanctuary Learning Center provides facilities for offices and classroom space for school groups and public programs.

“Maui County is the heart of the humpback whale sanctuary,” said sanctuary superintendent Naomi McIntosh, “and community stewardship is essential to sanctuary management.  This center will serve the sanctuary and the community by providing a new venue to work together to protect Hawaii’s humpback whales.”

The facility will also enhance interaction with the greater Pacific and international marine mammal management community.

During the recent International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas, delegates from the U.S., Fiji, Australia, Philippines, Uruguay, Guatemala and Brazil visited the learning center. It has been offered as a location for an upcoming intersessional meeting for the International Whaling Commission.

The $6.5 million building broke ground in 2004, and construction was completed earlier this year.

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