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Wednesday, May 15, 2002



U.S. ocean panel urged
to get Pacific input


By Diana Leone
dleone@starbulletin.com

The Hawaiian ahupuaa concept offers a model for resolving land-water issues that are a key concern across the nation, the chairman of a panel charged with improving federal agencies' management of ocean resources said yesterday.

An ahupuaa is a land division extending from the mountain or upland to the sea.

Retired Adm. James D. Watkins said it was important that the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy receive testimony from Hawaii and other U.S. Pacific islands as part of its nine-stop tour of coastal areas this year because islands offer a microcosm example of ocean issues.

"You can't ignore the land side," where poor agriculture, industry and development practices result in dire effects on the ocean, Watkins said during a break in two days of testimony to the commission at the Ilikai Hotel.

"The Hawaiian Islands are a precious commodity" that runs the state's economic engine, Watkins said. "You've got to maintain the beautiful environment, or you won't have tourism."

More than half the world's population lives in coastal areas and that proportion is expected to increase, Watkins said. Concerns for coastal areas include conservation of resources, maintaining fishing grounds, dealing with wastewater and keeping beaches clean.

Congress has charged the commission with finding ways to reduce duplication, improve efficiency, and enhance cooperation among federal, state and local government agencies and private concerns that deal with ocean issues. It is the first comprehensive overview of federal ocean policies since 1966. The commission is to make recommendations to Congress and the president next spring.

Testimony to the commission yesterday included:

>> Former state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairman Tim Johns urging the commission to listen to local people's ideas for improving things, rather than dictate change from Washington.

>> Lelei Peau, deputy director of the American Samoa Commerce Department, noting that Pacific islanders have much traditional knowledge of resource management that should be tapped.

>> Rear Adm. Robert Willard touting the Navy's record on environmental protection and urging the panel not to jeopardize military readiness by restricting training opportunities.

>> Surfrider Foundation volunteer Peter Etnoyer and Linda Paul, executive director of the Hawaii Audubon Society, calling for more protected marine areas where no fish are caught. Studies show that stopping fishing in some areas increases yields in others, they said.

>> Scott Atkinson of the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii calling for more money to preserve coral reefs, an investment he said would be repaid hundreds of times over by the goods and services that coral reefs provide humans.

>> William Friedl of the Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences and John Wiltshire, associate director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, calling for more investment in research in the ocean.



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