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The Maui Weekly, March 22, 2012

The Maui News - Over 15,000 public comments have led state and federal officials to consider the expansion of the scope of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The "Ecosystem-Based Management Plan" proposes to focus on the ecosystem holistically, as opposed to strictly the humpbacks and their habitat.

The one million-acre habitat was created by Congress in 1992. Since then, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been preparing for what they were told was the eventual day that they would begin focusing on more than just the whales.

As a result, they have been developing a process through which to assess what the sanctuary will look like after its transformation. They have asked the public and dozens of experts to submit comments, which they have been cataloging for the last few years.

Those comments were taken into consideration when writing a management plan for Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Ideas included, protecting underwater wrecks, testing water quality, encouraging cultural practices, and regulating fish catches and vessel refuse discharge.

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