Bills would rob DLNR of power to manage marine resources
THE Department of Land and Natural Resources is committed to working with fishermen and others to protect marine resources, and we must retain all management tools to be successful.
However, several bills introduced in the Legislature -- HB2881, HB2587 and SB3047 -- would redirect DLNR's responsibility from protecting the resources to simply promoting fishing, no matter what the consequences are to our ocean resources.
These bills should be killed. If they pass, the measures ultimately will result in the killing of marine resources instead of their protection.
A recent audit of DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement clearly underscored the need for all of us to take a more proactive role in natural resource management. These bills send DLNR in the opposite direction.
Closing designated ocean areas to fishing year round has proven to be far superior to seasonal closures in regard to the management of many fishery stocks. Yet these bills call for area closures only as a measure of last resort.
This is all the more ironic in light of the fact that the Legislature itself previously acknowledged the effectiveness of this approach by passing legislation in 1998 that established a network of closed areas for the aquarium fishery in West Hawaii.
As noted in DLNR's 2004 report to the Legislature, these closed areas have increased the populations of aquarium fish both inside and outside the closed areas, while the overall take and dollar value of this fishery have increased.
This clearly demonstrates that area closures can be mutually beneficial for both fish and fishermen.
We completely agree that management actions should be based on solid scientific analysis, and that they be followed up with sound and statistically defensible monitoring plans.
DLNR already has implemented this as a matter of standard operating practice.
These bills will drastically curtail and irrevocably harm DLNR's ability to manage marine resources and will favor a single special interest group of ocean users -- fishermen --over all others and at the long-term expense of the resources.
DLNR supports fishermen and the many other ocean users; but DLNR cannot cater to any single group, as the bills suggest. All of us share the responsibility of protecting our ocean resources.
We also share a common goal -- we all want fish for the future. However, handcuffing DLNR's ability to responsibly manage aquatic resources, and subverting those responsibilities to the desires of a single faction, is a betrayal of the public trust for the people of Hawaii.
Peter Young is director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.