Coast Guard Patrols Norhtwestern Hawaiian Islands

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard Cutter Kukui returned to Coast Guard Integrated Support Command Honolulu recently, having completed the first dedicated Coast Guard enforcement patrol through the newly created Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) Marine National Monument.

The Kukui and her crew of 50 traveled more than 2,600 nautical miles from July 16 through Aug. 1 to enforce federal regulations and environmental protective measures throughout the 140,000 square miles of the monument.

Established by President George W. Bush on June 15, 2006, by order of Presidential Proclamation 8031, the NWHI National Monument is approximately 100 miles wide and encompasses a 1,200 mile long swath of environmentally sensitive coral islands, seamounts, and reefs. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), the NWHI Monument ecosystem is home to some 7,000 species — including more than 1,400 Hawaiian Monk Seals and 90 percent of the Hawaiian green sea turtle population.

“This was a great opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Hawaii and our partners with NOAA and FWS our commitment to preserving and protecting the NWHI National Monument,” said Stephen Matadobra, commanding cfficer of the Kukui.

During the ship’s patrol, the Kukui crew spent several days servicing 17 buoys and two other aids to navigation in the vicinity of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Additionally, the Kukui crew transported three members of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to Kure Atoll. While anchored at Kure, a former Coast Guard Loran-A Station now operated by the DLNR as a state refuge, the Kukui’s dive team also performed an underwater survey of a sunken 30-foot sailing vessel to assess its impact on the surrounding coral reef ecosystem. Crew members also retrieved several samples of fuel taken by DLNR from recently discovered underground storage tanks. These were transported back to Oahu for further study by Coast Guard Civil Engineering Unit Honolulu.

The Kukui crew also aided U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service personnel stationed on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, by using its small boat to retrieve about 80 pounds of tar which had recently been collected off the shoreline. These tar samples were transferred to personnel in Honolulu for further analysis to determine their origin.

The Kukui is a 225-foot Juniper Class Buoy Tender homeported in Honolulu. In addition to servicing aids to navigation throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands and Western Pacific Ocean, other duties performed by the crew include Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, Marine Pollution Response, and Search and Rescue.

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