Papahanaumokuakea Monument Q&A


Why allow fishing in the proposed Monument expansion area?

The proposed Monument expansion area covers the entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The EEZ, through an international agreement, reserves 200 nautical miles surrounding the NWHI strictly for the economic use of local fishermen.  Our fishermen currently fish within the EEZ without interference from foreign longliners. But if the Hawaii longline vessels are pushed out of the EEZ, our fishermen would have to compete with foreign longliners with larger vessels that are not subject to the same conservation regulations and quotas.  If the EEZ is closed to Hawaii fishermen, our fishermen would be at a great disadvantage against the foreign fishermen. 

Won’t the expansion protect the environment, reefs and marine mammals for generations to come?

There is no scientific evidence that the proposed expansion will add any more conservation benefits than exist today.  Most of the endangered species live and multiply in the waters already protected by the current Monument, which spans 140,000 square miles.  Further expansion is not necessary. 

Hawaii already bears a heavy conservation burden compared to other states.  Hawaii has 23 percent of its waters designated as no-take areas, vs. California at 9 percent and Oregon at 2 percent.  If the expansion goes through, a staggering 67 percent of Hawaiian waters will be closed off to fishing. 

Won’t this lead to better regulation of the fishermen?

No. Hawaii’s fishing industry is already a world leader in conservation management while providing fresh fish to Hawaii's community for decades. To minimize any impact on the ocean environment, it has implemented numerous mitigation measures, including:

  • Limited entry:  Hawaii’s fishery is limited to 164 permitted vessels at any time to prevent overfishing.
  • Vessels cannot be over 101 feet in length.
  • Vessels must maintain daily logbooks and reporting of their activity and catches.
  • All vessels are required to use circle-shaped hooks and mackerel-type bail to reduce the accidental catch of sea turtles.
  • Fishing lines are cast from the side of the boat, rather than the back of the boat, and at dusk, to prevent seabirds from getting caught by the hooks.
  • All vessels are equipped with mandatory satellite-based vessel monitoring systems so that their movements can be tracked.
  • All vessels and fishing gear have identification marks.
  • Independent observers are placed on 20 percent of fishing trips for tuna and 100 percent of fishing trips for swordfish.
  • All landings are monitored shoreside and every fish can be tracked to the vessel and even to the location that it was caught.

Hawaii’s fishery is carefully managed, strictly monitored and its practices are being adopted as best-in-class practices by fisheries in other countries.

If only 8 percent of the catch will be affected by the expansion, why are the fisherman so against it?

Even though 8 percent of the catch is in the expansion area today, fish don't stay in one place. Next year or in three years as the fish move, 30 or 40 percent could be in these waters.

Ultimately, it will be the local consumers, small business owners, restaurants and fishermen that will suffer if the fish supply plummets and prices goes up.

What is the process for Hawaiian waters to be designated as a conservation area?

Using the 1906 Antiquities Act, President Obama can use his executive powers to expand the Monument.  No public hearings or Congressional action are necessary.

However, we remind the President of his own words about expanding monuments in his 2011 Executive Order 13563, citing the following safeguards to improve regulation:

  • Must be based on best available science.
  • Must allow for public participation and an open exchange of ideas.
  • Must identify and use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends.
  • Must take into account benefits and costs, both quantitative and qualitative.

There is no scientific basis to ban fishing in the expanded monument area and we urge the President to protect our access.