Facing opposition from the state, federal officials on Tuesday withdrew their plan to expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The proposal, introduced last March after years of work, called for adding 235 square miles of state and federal waters around Oahu, Kauai and Niihau to the sanctuary and changing to an ecosystem-based management approach instead of one that is species specific. The sanctuary would have been 1,601 square miles if approved.

John Armor, acting director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said in statement Tuesday that in light of state and community input, “NOAA is withdrawing the proposal to expand sanctuary conservation around Hawaii.”

Suzanne Case, Director of the state Departmentof Land and Natural Resources listens as hundreds of Hawaii Kai residents gather at Hahaione Elementary School cafeteria to listen to Malia Chow, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sanctuary Superintendent concerning the proposed plan to designate Maunalua Bay a Special Sanctuary Management Area. SSMA. 14 july 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case, seen here at a public hearing in July, opposed the sanctuary’s expansion.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“HIHWNMS will continue in its present form, conserving and protecting humpback whales and providing needed research support and public education,” Armor said. “We look forward to continuing our partnership and working together with the State of Hawaii and local communities.”

Suzanne Case, head of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, sent Armor a letter Friday detailing the state’s concerns.

“As the trustee of Hawaii’s natural resources, cultural resources, and submerged lands, the State of Hawaii supports an ecosystem-based management approach, but cannot endorse federal jurisdiction or enforcement of Hawaiian waters at this scale,” Case said in the letter, according to a story in The Garden Island.

She said the state “continues to believe that the Sanctuary should focus on complementing existing state functions and supporting existing management efforts of communities, non-government organizations, partner agencies, and other institutions rather than duplicating existing regulatory authority and programmatic efforts,” the article says.

DLNR issued a news release Tuesday in response to NOAA’s decision, saying it will continue working “to implement an integrate, ecosystem-based approach to management.”

“We believe strongly that this can only be achieved through partnerships in which each entity builds upon and leverages its unique strengths,” Case said in the release.

Congress established the sanctuary in 1992. It runs from the shoreline to 600 feet in depth off of Maui Nui, including Penguin Bank, and off the north shore of Kauai, the north and south shores of Oahu, and the north Kona coast of Big Island, according to DLNR. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries co-manages the sanctuary with the state.

In June, the DLNR submitted comments on the proposal that said what is most needed from the federal government at this time is “more management capacity … not more regulation.”

Read the state’s comments in their entirety below.

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