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Working To Protect Hawaii's Rich Coral Reefs May 26, 2000

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 26, 2000

May 26, 2000

President Clinton will today direct the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior to develop a plan to permanently protect the coral reefs of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, which represent nearly 70 percent of the coral reefs in U.S. waters. The Secretaries will develop the plan over the next 90 days with public input and in cooperation with the state of Hawaii.

America’s Premier Coral Reefs. The Northwest Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of islands over 1200 miles long located west of the main Hawaiian Islands. They include Nihoa and Necker Islands, French Frigate Shoals, Maro Reef, and Pearl & Hermes Atoll, and are surrounded by some of the most extensive and pristine coral reefs in U.S. waters. The reefs extend from near-shore areas just beneath the ocean surface to a depth of 100 fathoms (600 feet), as much as 100 miles out to sea.

The coral reef ecosystem encompasses more than 11,000 square kilometers and is home to a diverse and unique assemblage of fish, invertebrates, birds, sea turtles, marine mammals and other species found nowhere else on Earth. Federally protected species include the threatened green sea turtle, the endangered leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles, and the only remaining population of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Securing Permanent Protection. The President is directing the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior, in cooperation with the State of Hawaii and in the consultation with the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, to develop recommendations for a new, coordinated management regime to permanently protect the coral reefs and provide for sustainable use of their resources. A public outreach process at the outset will include hearings to gather public comments to help shape the final recommendations.

The Secretaries' plan will:

  • Assess all ongoing efforts to protect the coral reef ecosystem, including proposed no-take ecological reserves and the work of the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council;

  • Identify further measures needed to protect the threatened and endangered species of the ecosystem, including the endangered monk seal, sea turtles, and short-tailed albatross;

  • Consider establishment of a framework for scientific research and exploration;

  • Consider establishment of a framework for recreation and tourism that identifies appropriate activities and levels consistent with the protection and enhancement of the ecosystem, and ensures opportunities for sustainable economic activity;

  • Develop a framework, in cooperation with the State of Hawaii and in consultation the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, for long-term management of the reefs.

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