Photo courtesy of Kalasara Setaysha/Koholā Leo

Photo courtesy of Kalasara Setaysha/Koholā Leo

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency announced Tuesday it is withdrawing a proposal to expand the boundaries of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and include additional species.

“After listening to input from the community and the state, NOAA is withdrawing the proposal to expand sanctuary conservation around Hawai‘i,” a NOAA press release states.

Following years of work by HIHWNMS staff and Sanctuary Advisory Council members, NOAA issued a draft management plan and proposed rule in March 2015, and opened a public process and comment period, according to the press release.

That proposal contemplated a move from a single species national marine sanctuary that focuses solely on the humpback whale and its habitat to a national marine sanctuary with an expanded boundary and broader ecosystem scope. NOAA received a great deal of input from the community from all sides.

HIHWNMS is co-managed by the state of Hawai‘i; therefore, any management action must be supported by the state. On Jan. 22, NOAA received a letter from the state of Hawai‘i regarding the future of the sanctuary with concerns regarding the March 2015 proposal.

HIHWNMS will continue in its present form, conserving and protecting humpback whales and providing needed research support and public education. NOAA will publish a notice in the Federal Register formally withdrawing the March 2015 proposal.

NOAA said it looks forward to continuing their partnership and working together with the State of Hawai‘i and local communities.