In a move that may bring more local control over the governing of island marine resources, the National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday established a new Pacific Islands regional office and science center in Honolulu. Previously, Hawaii was under the jurisdiction of the agency’s Southwest Regional Office.
“We will have senior fisheries leadership directing our scientific research and management of the living marine resources in the Western Pacific,” said fisheries director Dr. Bill Hogarth. “This will ensure that the field structure is aligned to accurately and effectively reflect the needs of the agency’s constituencies as well as provide needed conservation and management programs in this area.”
The new office will oversee the largest geographical management area of any regional center: more than 1.7 million square nautical miles, bounded by the Hawai`i in the north, American Samoa and U.S. possessions in the south, and the Marianas Archipelago in the west.
The new office’s primary responsibility will be fishery and resource management in the Central and Western Pacific within three operational divisions: Sustainable Fisheries, Protected Resources and Habitat Conservation.
Sen. Daniel Inouye praised the creation of the new office.
“I am pleased that the Pacific Islands Region (PIR) has now become a reality,” Sen. Inouye said. “The creation of the PIR recognizes the importance of marine resources and its user communities in the Western, Central and South Pacific, and will result in more timely decisions being made locally about these resources.”
“It will also enhance our local capacity in the marine science field by providing more employment and education opportunities,” Inouye added.
The Pacific Islands office joins the agency’s Alaska, Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast regional offices. Dr. Samuel Pooley, currently the director of the NOAA Fisheries Honolulu Laboratory, will serve as the acting regional administrator.
“I’m pleased to announce that the new Pacific Islands offices are officially open for business,” Hogarth said.