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Hawaii Creates State Marine Refuge

September 30, 2005

HONOLULU (AP) _ Hawaii has banned fishing around the tiny islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, home to endangered Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles.

Gov. Linda Lingle signed the new rules Thursday creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge in the three miles offshore the largely uninhabited island chain, which stretch 1,200 nearly pristine miles across the Pacific Ocean.

The rules also limit public access in the refuge, although traditional Native Hawaiian cultural practices will be allowed.

State officials also asked the federal government to ban fishing in a broader area extending 50 miles in each direction from the island chain. Federal authorities are considering making the 132,000-square-mile area a National Marine Sanctuary but have not decided to what extent fishing would be limited there.

``It’s important for us to have a place in the world where we don’t take something,″ said Peter Young, chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Environmentalists cheered and applauded when Young asked for the fishing ban.

``It is an extraordinary surprise and extraordinary day,″ said Stephanie Fried, senior scientist with the New York-based group Environmental Defense.

But a fishery representative said the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have been fished since about 1900 and are still frequently described as pristine.

``It’s troubling to manage fisheries by basically prohibiting them,″ said Sean Martin, a Hawaii member of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.


On the Net:

Department of Land and Natural Resources: http://www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/

Northwestern Hawaiian Island Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve: http://www.hawaiireef.noaa.gov/welcome.html

Environmental Defense: http://www.environmentaldefense.org

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