National Marine Sanctuary Designation Process: FAQs
Q: Would the proposed sanctuary designation change the area from a marine national monument to a national marine sanctuary?
A: No. The national marine sanctuary designation would not replace monument status, but would add additional protections to safeguard resources in the marine portions of the monument. The level of protection within the monument currently in effect will not be reduced by the process to designate this area as a national marine sanctuary.
Q: Would a proposed national marine sanctuary include all of the existing monument area?
A: A proposed national marine sanctuary would only be considered for the marine portions of the monument. It would not include the land areas.
Q: How does sanctuary designation provide a more stable framework and additional protection?
A: The sanctuary designation process includes significant opportunities for public involvement and procedural steps including environmental review under National Environmental Policy Act and rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. Designation can augment and strengthen existing protections for Papahānaumokuākea ecosystems, living resources, and cultural and maritime heritage resources through the addition of sanctuary regulations. National Marine Sanctuaries Act authorities and regulations would enhance resource protection, increase regulatory compliance, ensure enforceability of protections, provide natural resource damage assessment authorities, and provide for interagency consultation.
Q: Will sanctuary designation change the co-management structure of the monument?
A: Sanctuary designation will not change the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ commitment to the co-management functions of the Papahānaumokuākea Monument Management Board to ensure unified governance in the spirit of seamless integrated stewardship. Monument co-managers work collaboratively to conduct, support and promote research, characterization and long term monitoring of marine ecosystems and species, and cultural and maritime heritage resources of Papahānaumokuākea.
Q: How does National Marine Sanctuary designation enhance management of the monument?
A: NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has been a key partner and co-managing agency in the management of Papahānaumokuākea since the designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000. Many of the monument’s extensive education, outreach, and research accomplishments have been executed under the auspices of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Sanctuary designation will perpetuate these exceptional programs, and will ensure the full benefits and expertise offered by the National Marine Sanctuary System and staff.
Q: Why does this area need additional protection?
A: Designation as a national marine sanctuary would 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.
Q: Could sanctuary designation decrease the current protections in the monument?
A: No. The level of protection within the monument currently in effect would not be reduced by national marine sanctuary designation. National Marine Sanctuaries Act authorities and regulations would enhance resource protection, increase regulatory compliance, ensure enforceability of protections, provide natural resource damage assessment authorities, and provide for interagency consultation.
Q: How will sanctuary designation impact recreational use of this area?
A: A sanctuary designation will not change any restrictions already in place.
Q: What are existing recreational restrictions in the monument?
A: Recreational use in the original monument footprint is restricted, consistent with the Presidential Proclamations designating Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
In the Monument Expansion Area, there are no current regulations or a permitting process in place to allow recreational use in this area.
Q: Is fishing currently allowed in the monument?
A: Commercial fishing is prohibited in the entire Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. In the Monument Expansion Area only, non-commercial fishing may be allowed through a permit, however, there are currently no regulations or a permitting process in place to allow non-commercial fishing in this area.
Q: Why is NOAA choosing to move forward with the designation process?
A: There is a long history of considering this area for national marine sanctuary designation, beginning with an Executive Order in 2000 by President William J. Clinton for the establishment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Groundwork was laid for national marine sanctuary designation when the monument was designated in 2006 by President George W. Bush. The proclamation in 2016 by President Barack H. Obama expanding the monument called for initiating the process to designate a national marine sanctuary.
Recently, the FY 2021 Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Report language directed NOAA to initiate the process under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act to designate Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a national marine sanctuary to "supplement and complement, rather than supplant, existing authorities."
Stakeholder groups and partners, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council and the state of Hawai’i have also supported the sanctuary designation process.
Q: What is the process for designating a national marine sanctuary?
A: The process to designate a new sanctuary is well established and documented:
Public Scoping Process -- Information collection and characterization, including the consideration of public comments received during scoping;
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 initiate consultations with federal, state, or local agencies and other interested parties, as appropriate;
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;
Preparation of Final Documents -- Preparation and release of a final environmental impact statement, final management plan, and a final rule and regulations, including a response to public comments.
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.