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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2005

State reviewing sea preserves

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources hopes to develop different types of "marine protected areas" to enhance the quality of Hawai'i's nearshore aquatic resources.

Fishing is banned at Hanauma Bay, a Marine Life Conservation District. The park draws thousands of visitors a day for approved activities, including snorkeling, that foster the growth of aquatic life.

Advertiser library photo

One of the challenges in the process is involving the public in an issue that can be complicated, and for some people, threatening.

"There's a lot of talk about marine protected areas, but a lot of people don't know what that is. The range goes all the way from people who are excited about it to people who are afraid of it," said Kimberly Lowe, an aquatic biologist with the department's Division of Aquatic Resources.

The agency has produced an educational pamphlet on the subject that will be available tomorrow on the agency's Web site, with printed copies distributed in tomorrow's edition of The Advertiser. It discusses what marine protected areas are, some of the ones already in place in Hawai'i, examples in foreign countries, the benefits and drawbacks of protected areas, and other features about them.

Lowe said the material is to help educate folks before the Division of Aquatic Resources later this year goes out on a statewide series of meetings to discuss marine protected areas with the public.

"We're trying to get people talking about it," Lowe said.

Learn more: www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dar
Marine protected area is a catch-all term for an area protected by regulations aimed at preserving something in the water there. Examples include marine parks designed to promote nonconsumptive uses such as snorkel-tourism and underwater photography, or fish replenishment areas meant to protect breeding animals and let excess fish resources flow into surrounding areas where fishing is permitted. They also may be areas where one kind of fishing is limited to improve the catch for other kinds.

Hanauma Bay is an example of an underwater park where fishing is banned and fish viewing is promoted.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman Peter Young says in the pamphlet that the review of marine protected areas may create a new framework in Hawai'i, in which some existing reserves may be placed in new categories.

The State's new pamphlet aims to educate the public on the many types of protected areas.
Among the existing categories are marine life conservation districts, fishery management areas, public fishing areas, and a variety of marine refuges, reserves and parks.

"Hawai'i's system of marine managed areas would benefit greatly from a re-evaluation in light of new information," the pamphlet says.

Some of that new information is that reef fish sometimes travel greater distances than anyone suspected. Fish-tagging studies have tracked a barracuda from O'ahu to Moloka'i, a mullet from Hilo Bay to Kealakekua, and a goatfish or weke — normally considered faithful to a specific local area — from Kane'ohe to Wai'anae.

Another fairly new piece of research shows that it may be far more important to protect the biggest fish rather than those just reaching sexual maturity. The pamphlet notes that a single 26-inch 'omilu — a kind of jack — produces 86 times more eggs than a fish half the length.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.