Place-Based Protections in an Era of Climate Change
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 6: ‘Accidental’ Adaptation: Climate Change and Existing Place-based Marine Management
6. “Accidental” adaptation: climate change and existing place-based marine management The United States’ Northwestern Hawaiian Islands stretch more than 1100 miles north and west of the Main Hawaiian Islands that tourists visit1 (Kaua’i being the farthest north that tourists usually go, although Ni’ihau is also inhabited). Laid across the continental United States, the chain would stretch from Washington, D.C., on the east coast into Minnesota.2 The ten small islands and atolls that make up the chain3 encompass “some of the healthiest and most undisturbed coral reefs on the planet.”4 These reefs are home to over 7000 species, about 25 percent of which are endemic to the islands—that is, found nowhere else on Earth.5 The islands’ remoteness has protected them and their attendant coral reef ecosystem from many kinds of marine stressors, especially pervasive development and extensive overfishing. Regular tourism has not been a part of these islands since World War II (and even then it was largely limited to Pan Am’s luxury flights to Midway6), and it requires a five-hour chartered flight to get from Honolulu to Midway, the only island or atoll with a landing strip. Sea voyages take even longer, and safe landings are difficult on most of the islands and atolls. While Native Hawaiians and high seas fishermen have fished these islands to the detriment of certain species, such as seals and lobsters, the chain has nevertheless not generally been the site of long-term, continual commercial fishing effort, and especially not since the United States...
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