Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Sea policy panel
hears turtle appeal

A federal commission takes
testimony here on ocean resources

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Fisherman Tom Webster recommended the U.S. longliner fleet be included in an international management plan due to its assistance in collecting data on sea turtles.

Excluding the fleet is detrimental to sea turtles, said Webster, who owns a 75-foot vessel, Havana, based in Honolulu.

"Without the data, the sea turtles are ultimately the victims," he added.

Webster was among five panelists who stated their concerns for a unified approach towards conservation of sea turtles, seabirds and the ocean's resources before the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy yesterday at the Ilikai Waikiki Hotel.

The commission consists of 16 members appointed by President Bush to conduct an in-depth analysis of the problems coastal regions face as they deal with the current workings of ocean and coastal management laws and policies on all levels.

The commission plans to develop a comprehensive national ocean policy to preserve the world's oceans and their resources. Hawaii is the fifth of nine major coastal regions the commission will be visiting. Commissioners are expected to submit a final report next spring to Congress and the president.

Retired Adm. James Watkins, chairman of the commission, said, "In the 36 years since the bulk of our federal oceans policies were created, our nation, the world and our oceans have changed drastically."

"Our coastal populations have exploded, resulting in a boom in coastal development and economies. Oceans-based international trade has risen dramatically, and ocean laws and regulations have become a bureaucratic nightmare. There is clear evidence of this right here in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific Islands," Watkins said.

Retired Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher Jr., administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said an integrated and sustained ocean observing system is needed to understand the "interactions between the oceans and atmosphere and to improving our climate assessment and predictions capabilities."

A total of $18 million was proposed under the president's budget for new climate research funding for NOAA. Of that, $4 million was to support the development of an ocean observing system.

"We need to take a pulse of Mother Earth so we can diagnose what's going on," Lautenbacher said.

The public is invited to comment today starting at 4 p.m.

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