A proposed new rule that would close large parts of five bays in Hawaii, including La Perouse Bay, is being pushed back by local residents who have called the actions premature and extreme.
Identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an important roosting habitat for Hawaiian Longbill Dolphins, La Perugia Bay or Keone’o’io Bay, as well as Kealakekua Bay, Honaunau Bay , Kauhako Bay (Ho’okena) and Makako Bay on the Island of Hawaii was selected for the proposed mandatory time-space closure rules.
“You know how many people are using La Perouse Bay and now you want to take a drastic step to shut it down? “ said local fisherman Pat Borge, who has also owned and operated Makena Stables since 1983. “I manage the gate so that the local fishermen can go there and fish. You talk about hundreds and hundreds of local guys going out there and fishing. That’s all they want to do. . . . Now I can’t fish anymore because of the dolphins?
Borge said it is the community’s right to access the ocean. He said more emphasis should be placed on dealing with tourists and tour operators who interact with dolphins.
“Your job was to enforce the rules already in the books” he added. “This is a sham. “
The rule proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service would regulate and prohibit the entry and use of water during “Essential diurnal use of habitat” 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, said Kevin Brindock, deputy administrator of the Pacific Islands regional office of NOAA Fisheries.
This includes prohibiting all forms of access to closed areas, such as swimming with and approaching bottlenose dolphins; the operation of a vessel with or without a motorized, non-motorized, self-propelled, human-powered or submersible crew; and swimming on the water surface or underwater, such as scuba diving or snorkeling.
Although the unauthorized capture of marine mammals, including the harassment of bottlenose dolphins, continues to be prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Brindock said those regulations should “Reduce direct close encounters and disturbances between bottlenose dolphins” and the “Activity intensity” in their habitats during key rest periods.
“The disturbance of these essential diurnal habitats endangers them” Brindock said Wednesday evening in a virtual public hearing. “It can be either habitat displacement or temporary avoidance of these essential diurnal habitats, it can increase energy demands as well as behavior patterns can be disrupted during periods of rest. It can also lead to a reduction in the size of populations. “
A population of around 355 Hawaiian long-beaked dolphins frequents Oahu, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. The populations of the small islands are “More sensitive or more vulnerable to stress factors”, he said.
These particular five berries were chosen because studies and NOAA surveys have shown increasing levels of human activity and, therefore, increasing negative effects on dolphin health, he added.
There are six proposed exceptions to access the space-time closure, such as activities permitted through a permit or authorization issued by NOAA Fisheries; federal, state or local government ships or personnel performing official functions; and outrigger canoes used for traditional subsistence fishing and intended for personal, family or community consumption or for traditional use.
Application and sanction to deter violations will be discussed in more detail. “As we move through the rule-making process”, Brindock said.
Authorities are also planning to monitor the area to enforce the rules.
While all witnesses supported dolphin conservation efforts, more than half of the 50 people who spoke at Wednesday night’s public hearing, which included nonprofit representatives, citizen scientists and Passionate ocean users, did not support the complete closure of the five bays. .
Born and raised in Maui, Mike Borge said he grew up fishing and diving in La Perouse and now teaches his children to do the same.
“In all my time in this bay, we have not approached or harassed any of these dolphins, and I have not seen any kayak fishermen, surfers or snorkelers doing anything of this nature.” he said. “It’s totally unfair.”
A map provided by NOAA shows the time-area closure limit beginning between 100 and 400 meters (328 to 1312 feet) from the shore of the bay, which is located south of Wailea at the end of Makena Alanui Road.
There will be approximately six buoys in the water to mark the limits.
According to the documents, the boundaries have been changed slightly since 2016 to allow groups of canoeists, fishermen and other water users to access areas adjacent to the time-area closures.
This proposed rule follows recent NOAA Fisheries law, which came into effect on October 28, which prohibits swimming with and approaching spinner dolphins within 50 meters or staying within 50 meters of a Hawaiian long-beaked dolphin.
Along with the proposed space-time closure, Brindock said it would allow dolphins to “enter the bay undisturbed” and remain for most of their daytime rest period while also allowing other human uses to occur – at a distance greater than 50 meters.
Yet residents of the islands of Maui and Hawaii argued that the New Approach law had not had enough time to be enforced and no conclusive evidence had been provided to suggest that full closures. were needed.
Seeking less drastic measures, witnesses suggested that officials offer more educational programs and conduct outreach activities.
“This rule is very premature and obviously you didn’t do your homework, you didn’t come to the community and we didn’t have our say.” said Justin Kekiwi from Maui. “We have to go with education. . . . Let’s use this (approach) rule and see where it goes. If applied correctly with education, it will work.
Russell Sparks, a Maui resident, a state aquatic biologist who spoke as a private citizen, said he supports the rule of approach but opposes closing the time zone of the bay of La Pérouse because it is already next to a marine protected area reserve.
“It’s one of the few places in this region where fishermen can go spearfishing, where people can enjoy the region. There is a surf spot which is well within the closed area that you are offering, so a lot of people who are not part of the problem will be affected ”, Sparks said. “This is not good. It will have an impact on what our department does which manages the resources.
Considered a windy bay, the buoys used to mark the boundary may come loose and land “A significant threat” to the region’s coral reefs as well, he added.
The department is accepting public comment until December 27 at go.usa.gov/xew5q.
To view the full proposal, visit www.federalregister.gov/d/2021-20620.
* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]