Thursday, November 25, 1999

Thanksgiving comes
amid hopeful signs

PERHAPS the most obvious thing Hawaii residents have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving is the amazing resurgence of the University of Hawaii football team. Who would have thought?

For non-football fans, there are faint signs that the state economy is also reviving, but the jury is still out on that. Tourism benefited by the huge dental convention and rising occupancy rates at hotels on most islands indicate that the industry is on the upswing.

Despite the horrifying slaughter at the Xerox warehouse, violent crime is down here and nationwide.

As Hawaii approaches the millennium, it can take comfort in the fact that for the moment U.S. troops are nowhere engaged in combat, with the exception of occasional aerial forays over Iraq.

Info BoxThe guns have fallen silent in Kosovo after a blistering NATO bombing campaign that forced Yugoslav withdrawal from the province and ended the slaughter of ethnic Albanians. An Australian-led force has pacified East Timor, another place where civilians had been slaughtered.

People who dislike politics can take comfort in the fact that there were no elections this year in Hawaii, although the 2000 presidential campaign is already well under way. The failure of the Republican attempt to force President Clinton from office has made the rest of the national political year anti-climatic but left the president a very lame duck.

Having eked out a re-election victory last year and barred from seeking another term, Governor Cayetano can afford to play the statesman and seek fiscal reforms the state needs to stay afloat.

Hard times have been with Hawaii for much of the 1990s and there are still many people on this Thanksgiving in need of help. Despite some hopeful signs, this has not been a year of prosperity in the islands.

Even so, most Hawaii residents are sitting down today to a bountiful meal and have reason to count their blessings. This is still a very special place, even in hard times.

Although many other countries and societies have similar observances, Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday with its roots in the first settlement of the Pilgrims.

It owes its setting at the end of November to Abraham Lincoln, who proclaimed "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise" in the fall of 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. The proclamation may have suited Lincoln's purposes after the Union's military fortunes changed at Gettysburg, but he is said to have issued it in deference to a popular movement for an annual observance of thanksgiving.

Still, as Diana Butler Bass wrote in last Saturday's Insight section in the Star-Bulletin, "Until World War II, there was no worse season in American history than the fall of 1863. Give thanks? For what? Political crises, death, uncertainty, war?"

Lincoln believed, Bass wrote, that human affairs unfolded under the rule of God. "God's will, however imperfectly understood or recognized, was working itself out through the conflict."

The same concept holds today, in good times and bad. We give thanks for life and whatever it brings, with gratitude for its blessings but acceptance of its suffering.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Longline fishing ban

Bullet The issue: A federal judge has banned longliners homeported in Hawaii from fishing in a vast section of the Pacific.

Bullet Our view: The ban makes no sense because it does not apply to longliners based elsewhere.

The intention is good, but the action leaves something to be desired. Federal District Judge David Ezra has banned Hawaii long-liners from fishing in a vast section of the Pacific while the National Fisheries Service completes an environmental impact statement on endangered sea turtles. Estimates of how long it will take to complete the study range from several months to two years.

The area in which the ban will take effect -- in 30 days -- is 1,000 miles wide, starting about 500 miles north of Hawaii. It is described as a nutrient-rich area where warm and cool waters converge, attracting both swordfish and turtles.

The zone includes the most productive region for the Hawaii swordfish industry, which is said to represent one-quarter of the value of Hawaii longliners' $60-million annual catch.

The ban is the court's response to a suit by the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of the Center for Marine Conservation and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, which charged that the fisheries service was not properly applying environmental laws to protect leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Both species have been killed by longline equipment.

However, the ruling applies only to longliners home-ported in Hawaii. Fishing fleets of Korea, Taiwan and Japan as well as those from the West Coast and Alaska -- all of which frequent the area -- are unaffected.

One consequence is that the price of swordfish in local markets will go up. Some of the longline boats homeported here may relocate to the West Coast or Alaska so they would be able to continue fishing.

Kitty Simonds, director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, said most of the fishing pressure in the proscribed area comes from those fleets, not from Hawaii. If so, it makes no sense to ban only the Hawaii fleet.

"By a stroke of the pen, a judge closes down 30 percent of the industry," Simonds said. "He took decision-making out of the council process, a process that works."

This is not a decision that is likely to win encomiums for judicial restraint.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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