That National Marine Sanctuary Foundation recently honored U.S. Congressman Ed Case of Hawai‘i as a longtime leader in ocean policy.
Case received the foundation’s prestigious 2023 Leadership Award during a gala in Washington, D.C., which wrapped up the annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week that brought together ocean advocates from around the globe.
“While I was truly honored to have received this award, it is just a moment in time when compared to the critical threats that face our oceans across a number of fronts,” Case said. “I am mostly just grateful to be part of a community of true passion who cares so deeply for our oceans and are so personally committed to saving them from what has become their worst enemy: humankind.”
Case was an early advocate for and instrumental in the designation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2006 and current efforts to expand protections for the Pacific Remote Islands. A member of the House Appropriations and Natural Resources committees since his return to Congress in 2019, the Hawai‘i Democrat also co-led reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Program and continues to fight for ocean-based climate solutions, sustainable climate ready fisheries management and international cooperation and coordination in saving the world’s oceans.
The foundation honors one or two political leaders per year who demonstrate a commitment to ocean, coastal and Great Lakes stewardship. Previous awardees include President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush and U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Case shared the 2023 Leadership Award with his colleague U.S. Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, who the foundation said has been a leading voice on environmental and social justice issues since being elected to Congress more than two decades ago. In 2018, Grijalva became chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, a role in which he successfully elevated climate action, environmental justice and indigenous affairs in national ocean policy.
Two other Hawai‘i residents — Solomon “Sol” Pili Kahoʻohalahala and William J. Ailā — also were honored by the foundation, receiving the Sanctuary Wavemaker Award for their critical work benefiting national marine sanctuaries.
Kahoʻohalahala, who served with Case in the Hawai‘i House of Representatives, is Chairperson of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. He also is the current Native Hawaiian member on the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument community group and a member of the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition.
During the Obama Administration, Kahoʻohalahala advocated successfully for the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, creating the world’s largest marine protected area, and now serves as its Native Hawaiian elder on the reserve advisory council.
Aila, who has served Hawaiʻi in various capacities including as chairman of the Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Hawaiian Homes Commission, is committed to protecting areas with deep cultural importance as well as significant natural resource value.
He expanded Hawaiʻi’s Natural Area Reserve program, streamlined permitting for restoration of Hawaiian fishponds and helped create the first community-based subsistence fishing area in Haena, Kauaʻi. Aila was also instrumental in the creation and expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and was the former chairman of the Papahānaumokuākea Reserve Advisory Council.