Federal Monk Seal Should Not Receive Critical Habitat Designation in Hawaii

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Governor Linda Lingle sent a letter today to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding their proposed rule to designate the main Hawaiian Islands as a critical habitat for the Hawaiian Monk Seal.

BY LINDA LINGLE– A recent proposal by the Federal Government to make 4,787 square miles of land and water in Hawaii a federal critical habitat is another example of government over-reach and insensitivity to the concerns of the people of this State.I am calling upon the federal Department of the Interior to postpone this action until such time as the economic and social consequences to the people of Hawaii are fully understood and addressed.


While I support efforts to protect and preserve endangered species, such as the Hawaiian Monk Seal, these efforts should be carried out with a sensitivity to the people and activities they impact. And they should be based on extensive public input and solid economic and scientific data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is proposing to designate almost the entire coastlines and surrounding waters of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe as a critical habitat for monk seals. The designation would include the shorelines up to 16 feet inland and the oceans out to a depth of 1,640 feet. The total area would cover 4,787 square miles. To put this into perspective, the entire State of Hawaii is 6,459 square miles. The habitat would be equal to almost 75% of the size of our State.

NOAA published their proposed rule last June in a Federal publication that few citizens read (The Federal Register). They gave the public only 60 days to respond to a proposed rule that could last for over 50 years. Only after receiving letters from elected officials who were alerted by concerned fishermen, native Hawaiian groups, and community activists, did NOAA agree to re-open the public comment period.

As the former Governor of the State of Hawaii, I am concerned about the potential adverse impacts this rule could have on such important activities as clean energy projects (such as wave energy, ocean-thermal energy, and seawater air conditioning), aquaculture, fishing, military activities, harbor improvements and near-shore construction (including airports modernization and highway reconstruction). NOAA’s economic report acknowledges that insufficient information currently exists to measure the financial impacts on these activities.

NOAA also acknowledges the monk seal population has been declining in those areas where the critical habitat designation has been in place for over 20 years (the Northwestern Hawaiian {i}Islands) but the seal population has been increasing where no designation is in place (the main Hawaiian islands).

These proposed rules are yet another example of the ‘one size fits all’ approach from the Federal Government in Washington, D.C. I believe it is essential that we put People First and find solutions that allow the seal population to increase without adversely harming humans.

Given the large size of the proposed habitat designation, the extended length of time it could be in place, the fact that the seals are doing better in the main islands without a habitat designation and that most of the economic impacts have not been quantified, I am calling upon NOAA and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior, to postpone action on their rule-making until such time as the economic and social consequences to the people of Hawaii are fully understood and addressed.

Linda Lingle is a Republican who served as Governor of Hawaii and Mayor of Maui and is running for U.S. Senate.





  1. The guest contributor needs to do a little more homework – the Department of the Interior is not the parent agency of NOAA…and Linda wants to be our next congressional person? Not happening!

  2. Is the NOAA under the Dept. of Commerce perchance? If so, think they have other things in mind down the road for all this land and sea for 50 years? Hiding behind a poor Monk Seal? ;^( Kinda makes me wanna cry ;o(

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