Proposed Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Sanctuary: FAQs

Q: Would the proposed sanctuary designation change the area's current status as a marine national monument?

A: No, the proposed Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Sanctuary would not change the area's status as a marine national monument. The proposed sanctuary would only add to, and would not diminish, Monument management measures and protections. Through sanctuary designation, NOAA is proposing to supplement and complement existing management of the area and would manage the sanctuary in close collaboration with Monument co-trustees.

Q: Would the proposed national marine sanctuary include all of the existing monument area?

A: The proposed sanctuary designation would only include the marine portions of the existing Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Q: Why does this area need additional protection?

A: Designation as a national marine sanctuary would supplement and complement the efforts of the State of Hawaiʻi and other federal agencies to conserve the nationally significant ecosystems and cultural resources of this area. The ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from threats such as marine debris, invasive species, and climate change. National marine sanctuary designation would provide additional protections to safeguard resources in the marine portions of the Monument.

The sanctuary designation would also provide the first set of implementing regulations for the directives outlined in Presidential Proclamation 9478 for the Monument Expansion Area, a critical step in implementing and enforcing the protections within this directive.

Q: Will sanctuary designation change the co-management structure of the monument?

A: No, the co-management structure of the Monument will not change. NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has been a key partner and co-managing agency in the management of Papahānaumokuākea since the initial designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will continue to work collaboratively with the Papahānaumokuākea Monument Management Board to conduct, support and promote research, characterization and long term monitoring of marine ecosystems and species, and cultural and maritime heritage resources of Papahānaumokuākea.

What does NOAA mean when stating that the proposed sanctuary would "supplement and complement" the Monument?

A: NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries would be able to enhance or fill gaps in critical management priorities through the adoption of a sanctuary management plan.The draft sanctuary management plan was developed in consultation with the State, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and provides the framework, core elements, adaptive management strategies, and comprehensive suite of actions required to address resource management needs in the areas of resource protection, research and monitoring, cultural heritage, and outreach and education. This collaborative approach was followed to explicitly ensure concurrence of plans between the proposed sanctuary and the Monument.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Act's authorities and implementing regulations would also enhance resource protection by providing tools to increase regulatory compliance, ensure enforceability of protections, provide natural resource damage assessment authorities, and require interagency consultation on federal actions. The level of protection within the Monument would not be reduced by national marine sanctuary designation.

As the proposed sanctuary would overlap with the Monument, as well as two National Wildlife Refuges and a state wildlife refuge, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will work to implement their authority in a manner that adds to and does not diminish existing authorities in a manner that strengthens existing protections and management.

Q: NOAA is proposing that the sanctuary be co-managed with the state of Hawaii. Would NOAA coordinate with the other Monument co-trustees (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs) in managing the area?

A: In recognizing the State of Hawaii, NOAA did not intend to exclude the other Monument co-trustees (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs). To the contrary, partnerships with other federal and state agencies with overlapping jurisdiction is critical to the success of the National Marine Sanctuary System. In the proposed regulations, NOAA was trying to explain the specific statutory role that states may have in cooperatively managing a sanctuary if all or part of the proposed sanctuary is within the territorial limits of any State. NOAA will clarify this intent should the designation advance to a final rule and will also work with Monument co-managers to update agreements as appropriate.

Q: Will NOAA co-manage the sanctuary with the Native Hawaiian Community?

A: The Native Hawaiian community is a critical part of the co-management structure of the Monument through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The Memorandum of Agreement that incorporates the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a Monument co-manager would continue to serve as the guiding document on the integration of the national marine sanctuary into the Monument co-management structure.

Q: How will the Native Hawaiian community be involved in sanctuary stewardship if designated?

A: If designated, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will continue to actively engage with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Papahānaumokuākea Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group (CWG), which serves as the Native Hawaiian community voice in advising the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a co-trustee of the Monument. The CWG originated as an advisory body to NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council before being moved over to Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 2017, following the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' inclusion as a co-manager of the Monument. The CWG is composed of Native Hawaiian kūpuna (respected elders), researchers, cultural practitioners, educators, and community members with deep connections and historical ties to Papahānaumokuākea, and this long standing relationship with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will continue with the addition of a national marine sanctuary. The proposed sanctuary will also have a Native Hawaiian Program Specialist on staff and the communication and engagement team will continue to develop events and outreach materials specifically to involve the Native Hawaiian community across the islands, including products in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. The Sanctuary Advisory Council would also include three Native Hawaiian seats.

Q: Which EIS boundary alternative is NOAA recommending and why?

A: NOAA's preferred alternative is the Alternative 1 boundary which is coextensive with the marine portions of the Monument. The boundary includes the marine environment surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands from the shoreline of the islands and atolls seaward to 200 nautical miles, including all State waters and waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, Midway Atoll and Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuges, and State of Hawaiʻi Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine Refuge. This alternative includes all shallow-water coral reef habitats most vulnerable to both human and natural threats, including impacts from marine debris, invasive species, and climate change. As the entirety of Papahānaumokuākea is sacred to Kānaka ʻOiwi, this alternative ensures that values of Native Hawaiian culture are considered.

Q: Will commercial fishing be allowed in the proposed sanctuary?

A: No. Commercial fishing is prohibited in the entirety of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, including the Monument Expansion Area through Presidential Proclamations 8031 and 9478. The commercial fishing prohibition can not be changed by national marine sanctuary designation.

Q. Will sustenance fishing be allowed in the proposed sanctuary?

A: Sustenance fishing is a type of fishing in which all catch is consumed within Papahānaumokuākea, and that is incidental to a permitted activity. Sustenance fishing is currently the only form of fishing that may be allowed in the original Monument (0 - 50 nmi). This will not change under the proposed sanctuary designation. NOAA is proposing to also allow sustenance fishing as a term or condition of a permit in the Outer Sanctuary Zone (i.e., Monument Expansion Area, 50 - 200 nmi).

Q: Aside from sustenance fishing, will other forms of non-commercial fishing be allowed in the proposed sanctuary?

A: In the Outer Sanctuary Zone (i.e., Monument Expansion Area, 50 - 200 nmi), NOAA is proposing that non-commercial fishing be prohibited unless conducted pursuant to a permit authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This proposal is consistent with Presidential Proclamation 9478 which created the Monument Expansion Area. The Proclamation states that non-commercial fishing may be permitted as long as it is consistent with the care and management of the objects within the Monument Expansion Area, and provided that the fish harvested, either in whole or in part, cannot enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade, and that the resource is managed sustainably.

Q: Why does NOAA propose to exempt scientific exploration or research activities by or for the Secretary of Commerce and/or the Secretary of the Interior in the Outer Sanctuary Zone (i.e., Monument Expansion Area)?

A: This was a directive in Presidential Proclamation 9478. In preparing the proposed rule, NOAA adopted the management measures from the Presidential Proclamations that designated the Monument and Monument Expansion Area, and, in a few areas, added onto those measures for consistency in regulation and management across the proposed sanctuary.

Q: What is the process for designating a national marine sanctuary?

A: The process to designate a new sanctuary is well established and documented:

  1. Public Scoping Process -- Information collection and characterization, including the consideration of public comments received during scoping;
  2. Preparation of Draft Documents -- Preparation and release of draft designation documents including a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that identifies boundary and/or regulatory alternatives, a draft management plan, and a notice of proposed rulemaking to define proposed sanctuary regulations. Draft documents would be used to support consultations with federal, state, or local agencies and other interested parties, as appropriate;
  3. Public Comment -- Through public meetings and in writing, allow for public review and comment on the DEIS, draft management plan, and notice of proposed rulemaking;
  4. Preparation of Final Documents -- NOAA would make a final decision on whether or not to designate the site as a national marine sanctuary and, if so, prepare the final documents, including a final environmental impact statement, final management plan, and a final rule and regulations, including a response to public comments.
  5. The sanctuary designation and regulations would take effect after the end of a review period of 45 days of continuous session of Congress. If the sanctuary is located partially or entirely within state waters, the Governor of the affected state has the opportunity to review and certify to the Secretary of Commerce that the designation of portions of state waters or any of its terms are acceptable or unacceptable.