Members of the public will have their first and possibly only in-person opportunity Monday evening to let federal officials know how they feel about President Barack Obama’s plan to greatly expand the boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. 

The monument, which President George W. Bush established in 2009, is comprised of five uninhabited islands or atoll complexes, including Wake, Jarvis, Howland and Baker Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll. 

Obama wants to expand the current protections — which extend 50 miles offshore — to include the full U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers 200 nautical miles off the coast of each island or atoll.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are hosting the town hall meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Carnation Room of the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu. 

A minute anemone shrimp on the outer surface of the anemone Heteractis magnifica. Kingman Reef lagoon, 12 m depth.

A minute anemone shrimp on the outer surface of the anemone Heteractis magnifica, Kingman Reef lagoon, 12 meters depth.

Enric Sala

Stakeholders ranging from conservationists and scientists to Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and fishermen are expected to take part in the discussion. 

Here’s what a couple of them had to say about the effort to protect what is being described as one of the last remaining near-pristine ecosystems in the world, which includes 14 million seabirds of 19 species, 22 different marine mammal species, endangered sea turtles and ancient corals. 

“If we protect these zones, we will likely not affect the overall catch of the fleet, but rather displace the less than 5 percent of U.S. annual tuna catch to other geographies — which are already being fished,” Jack Kittinger, director of Conservation International Hawaii, said in a statement.

“Our kupuna would always tell us malama i ke koa and the koa will malama us, if we malama the opelu, the opelu will feed us,” said Kaimi Kaupiko of Milolii Lawaia Ohana.

Pew Charitable Trusts prepared a background dossier in June on the proposed expansion of the monument. Read it here:

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