Hawai'i Conservation Conference Call to Action: Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

Jul 19, 2017

World Conservation Conference
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

More than 13-hundred people are taking part in the 3-day Hawai'i Conservation Conference in Honolulu this week.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka attended one of the sessions and filed this report.  

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is one of more than two-dozen national monuments currently under compliance review by the U.S. Departments of Interior and Commerce.  It could  lose some of its federal protections under the Antiquities Act. Hawaiian fisherman, William Aila, was one of the original members advocating for conservation of the area, which he says, is a special place.

Papahanaumokuakea panelists (L-R): Kekuewa Kikiloi, William Aila, Brad Wong and Athline Clark.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“Papahanaumokuakea is a place that has extra mana.  It’s a place where a bird will try to land on your head.  Nowhere in the main Hawaiian islands would a bird try to do that.  It’s a place where the ‘Ulua swims up to you and basically tells you,’ Who the hell said you can swim in my ocean.’  They say it with their eyes.  I don’t know if they have telepathic abilities, right?  But you know what they’re thinking.  It’s a place where even the smallest fish is not afraid.”

The national monument in the northern Hawaiian Islands was created by executive order in 2006 and tripled in size a decade later.   It encompasses more than 580-thousand square miles and is the largest conservation area in the U.S.  Athline Clark is the monument superintendant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

“What we represent is unique across not just Hawai’i but globally. There’s no place else that I know of where there is an agreement for co-management that represents two federal agencies, a state agency and the agency that represents the indigenous voice like there is for Papahanaumokuakea, globally.”

NOAA, the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

co-manage the biological and cultural resources within the monument.  Reserve Advisory Council member and Lana’i resident, Sol Kaho’ohalahala, is involving his mo’opuna, his grandchild, in preserving the fisheries and cultural aspects of the monument for future generations.

“Her name is Ka’alakahekina Kaho’ohalahala Watanabe.  She’s 10 years old.  She went with me to Washington DC  to aske President Obama to consider the expansion.  She met with the executives and the Office of Environmental Quality and she was able to voice her need to protect the place she has never seen.”

More than 1,300 people are attending the World Conservation Conference this week.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

But the task at hand, according to Cultural Working Group chair, Kekuewa Kikiloi, is to weigh-in on the current review by the Trump administration.  Kikiloi is an assistant professor at Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Manoa.

“The call to action is for people to sign the petitions on the Expand Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (web) site.  You know there’s drives going out, there’s letters you can send to the Department of Interior voicing your concerns.  Getting people involved is what’s needed right now.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.