Hawaiians lost control of a $5 billion Trust Asset


August 2010 Ka Wai Ola Column

On December 14, 2006, the board of trustees authorized the Administrator and Chair Haunani Apoliona to negotiate with the Governor and the Federal Government so that OHA could have a meaningful role in the coordinated management of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (now known as Papahanaumokuakea) that was established by George W. Bush through Presidential Proclamation 8112 of June 15, 2006.

During the vote, I expressed my deep concerns that OHA’s role should not be just limited to the oversight of the cultural and historic consultation aspects of Papahanaumokuakea but also the proper management and protection of its fishing resources.

After the Proclamation, Papahanaumokuakea was managed through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between (1) the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, (2) the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and (3) the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  I was concerned that OHA was left out and asked the Administration if OHA could be added to this MOA at a later date.  They said, “Yes.”

Flash-forward to four years later and OHA is still not a part of the MOA and we are getting reports that Hawaiians are having a difficult time accessing Papahanaumokuakea and continuing their traditional practice of subsistence fishing.

Not only has OHA failed to become a full partner in the management of Papahanaumokuakea, one of our most sacred, culturally significant and environmentally sensitive sites, but now five OHA trustees (Apoliona, Machado, Stender, Mossman, and Waihee) are giving their de facto support for the current management arrangement by pushing for Papahanaumokuakea’s designation as a “prestigious” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

On July 8, 2010, the five trustees voted to support the Nomination of Papahanaumokuakea as a World Heritage Site despite a myriad of concerns including:

(1) In early 2009, the Marine Resources Committee of the American Bar Association concluded that the George W. Bush’s proclamations establishing Papahanaumokuakea were illegal and that the jurisdiction of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) under the Magnusson-Stevens Act could not be terminated by the proclamation.

(2) The Bar Committee also certified that the process used by Bush had terminated any opportunity for meaningful public input.

(3) The Bush administration designated Monuments across the United States, on land as well as in the oceans.  In these areas, public and native rights have been ignored.

(4) The U.S Military has full access to Papahanaumokuakea and can come and go as they please.

(5) Other World Heritage Sites, such as the Galapagos Islands, have been permanently damaged from a massive increase in tourism after its designation.

I strongly support delaying the World Heritage Site designation for Papahanaumokuakea until there is genuine support for it from our beneficiaries and all of the concerns I have mentioned above have been properly addressed.  OHA has done polls regarding the Akaka bill in the past.  We should certainly do one for this issue.

The fisheries contained within Papahanaumokuakea have been valued at an estimated five billion dollars (US).  If it is properly and sustainably managed, it could provide the food that our future nation will need to survive, not to mention that theses lands are considered ceded.  We cannot allow such an important site to be under the sole control of the state and federal governments who have a long history of mismanaging our resources. 

OHA and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council must be equal signatories to the MOA to ensure that Papahanaumokuakea will be protected.  There is absolutely no need for the state DLNR to be a signatory to this MOA.  DLNR has mismanaged ceded lands since 1959.  How can they possibly manage the islands and waters of Papahanaumokuakea?  The idea is beyond comprehension.

What do you think?  Shouldn’t you have an opportunity to voice your opinions on this important matter?

To view four video clips from the OHA Board of Trustees meeting on July 8, 2010 click on the following links:

(1) BOT 7-8-10 Board Counsel Opinion – Agenda Item Proper


(2) William Aila Jr. Supports Papahanaumokuakea as Heritage Site


(3) OHA BOT 7-8-10 Trustee Stender on Papahanaumokuakea


(4) OHA BOT 7-8-10 Mililani Trask on Papahanaumokuakea