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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, June 30, 2000

Fishing for a different
perspective on longliners

IF animals could talk, they'd poke fun at human behavior. This summer on Oahu, for example, they'd be entertained by all the grousing from people peeved at highway and street construction.

"Why are you unhappy they're using tax dollars to improve the surfaces on which you drive?" the animals might observe.

"Would you prefer crumbling asphalt and leaking underground water systems to the preventive and federally mandated roadwork now going on?"

In response, the Homo sapiens of Honolulu might turn away, roll their eyes and think, "Stupid animals. What do they know?"

As self-proclaimed masters of the universe, it's tough for mankind to agree that mere inconvenience isn't a good enough reason to gripe.

That's just how we are. As the saying goes, we're only human.

If an object or behavior causes us grief, it must be bad -- no matter what other redeeming qualities it may have -- even if it's actually beneficial to other living things.

This rationale rings true to us because, heck, human beings are at the pinnacle of the pyramid of life. What we want or need is really all that matters, right?

When will people stop being so arrogant, asked a caller to the opinion department earlier this week.

The reader didn't want to give her name or write a letter to the editor, but she did want to share her perspective on the longline fishing controversy much in the news.

Because longliners going after fish have also been snagging endangered sea turtles, U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled last Friday that each boat must now carry an official observer to monitor its catch.

That decision has resulted in The Perfect Storm:

Bullet Fishermen lamenting that this is economically unfeasible and absolutely undoable.

Bullet Fish wholesalers, distributors and buyers fretting over supply.

Bullet Seafood lovers reveling in deep despair. "No more cheap, fresh fish in plentiful quantity," they worry. "We'll have to eat more expensive, less enticing frozen fish from the mainland. Blech!"

The caller was appalled by such small-minded, self-centered reactions. She asks critics of Judge Ezra's ruling to consider a different point of view, that mankind is no more or less important than any other species on Earth.

IF animals could comment on this longline ruling, they'd chastise us for thinking only about ourselves -- how it will affect my job, my industry, my food, my convenience, my pocketbook. Me, me, me.

"Why must you continue to fish and deplete marine resources as you please, regardless of its impact on other creatures who reside in these waters?" they might inquire of humans.

"Would you prefer to ignore your symbiotic relationship with nature until it's too late and you end up on this planet alone? Then what will your kind say? 'Oops, sorry about that, we screwed up.'"

Today's Homo sapiens would, no doubt, be offended by such an affront. They'd turn their backs, roll their eyes and mutter, "Stupid animals. What do they know?"

We are and always will be -- in our minds at least -- No. 1.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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