Gov. David Ige, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and the U.S. Secretaries of Interior and Commerce have signed an updated Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) adding OHA as a co-trustee of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. It is the largest, contiguous, fully protected conservation area in the U.S. and encompasses 583,000 square miles of ocean waters, including ten islands and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
With the signing of the updated MOA, co-trustee agencies are: the Commerce Department (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); the Interior Department (Fish and Wildlife Service); the State of Hawai‘i Land and Natural Resources Department (DLNR) and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
“Honoring, respecting and perpetuating the Native Hawaiian culture and sustainability are among my administration’s top priorities. OHA has participated in the decision making process since the monument was first designated by President Bush more than ten years ago, and previously, when the area was managed as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. The monument is world renowned for both its natural and cultural attributes and OHA’s co-trustee role will ensure the protection of Native Hawaiian cultural features and provide a critical cultural sensitivity to every decision that is made to protect this unique place,” said Gov. David Ige.
“We fully support and embrace OHA as a co-trustee of the monument. It is impossible to separate decisions about nature from cultural considerations. OHA’s elevated voice and input will inform management actions on a broad scale,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.
OHA has been one of seven collaborating agencies for Papahānaumokuākea, including NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Fisheries Service; the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ecological Services and Refuges, and the DLNR Divisions of Aquatic Resources and Forestry and Wildlife.
Papahānaumokuākea is rich in history and cultural significance. In 2010, UNESCO inscribed the area as our nation’s first mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site.
“The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is of great cultural significance to the Native Hawaiian community and houses important marine ecosystems that the Department of Commerce is committed to protecting for future generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Over the past 10 years, we have forged a strong partnership with the State of Hawai‘i and we look forward to collaborating with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on our continued efforts to preserve this unique environment.”
“The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the most diverse and threatened ecosystems on the planet and a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “By including OHA as a co-trustee for Papahānaumokuākea, we are highlighting not only the protection of natural treasures like the pristine coral reefs and deep sea marine habitats, but also the significant cultural and historic resources of the area that will be preserved for current and future generations.”
“We thank President Barack Obama and our partners and supporters for making this a reality. Since our community’s first involvement in the management of these kūpuna island more than a decade ago, the goal has been to get Native Hawaiians a seat at the decision-making table. We understand the challenges ahead and are firmly committed to fulfilling our kuleana to this place and our beneficiaries,” said OHA Chair Rowena Akana.
“This historic action rightfully places the Native Hawaiian voice at the highest levels of decision making for this culturally and spiritually significant wahi pana (sacred place) and will help advance our people’s understanding of the deep connection of our entire paeʻaina (archipelago). We look forward to serving in our new role, in partnership with our co-trustees, to develop and implement a resource management structure that integrates the best of conventional science and traditional practices. We hope that Papahānaumokuākea will demonstrate to the world that integrating science and indigenous knowledge is the best management model to sustain our fragile global environment,” said Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, OHA’s chief executive officer.
OHA is a constitutionally established body, set as a separate state entity independent of the executive branch of the State of Hawai‘i. Its primary responsibility is representing the interests of the Native Hawaiian community, including in the monument, through the perpetuation of Hawaiian cultural resources. This includes the customary and traditional rights and practices of Native Hawaiians that are exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes under the Hawai‘i Constitution.