Don't let bad legislation stink up ocean resources
IT IS alarming that our House of Representatives recently passed an industry-based bill that would prevent the protection of marine resources. House Bill 1848 is a smoke screen that emerged from a Wespac-sponsored process (Puwalu) initiated after Wespac lost jurisdiction in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The bill appears to be about protecting marine resources; however, it does the opposite. HB 1848 closely mirrors failed legislation from a national industry lobby promoting "right to fish" legislation throughout North America. These folks openly attack any and all environmental controls on fishing activities (recreational and commercial) from sea to shining sea.
HB 1848 is a essentially a replica of a boilerplate bill that died last year in the House and, before that, in Pennsylvania. A similar version of HB 1848 introduced last session initially had support from legislators lured by its apparent commitment to Hawaiian traditional knowledge and science-based resource management. Then-Rep. Ezra Kanoho, who sponsored the bill, discovered that he had been grossly misled and subsequently killed it after realizing that the true goal of the legislation was to halt protections by imposing impossible standards of documentation.
HB 1848 would make it nearly impossible for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to implement existing regulations (such as reasonable lay net limits) and assign protection zones (Marine Protected Areas) to near-shore reef areas and fishing zones that need to recover. Last year, this bill was so heavily lobbied by Kitty Simonds, executive director of Wespac, it sparked a federal investigation by the investigator general that is still ongoing.
HB 1848 will head over to the Senate Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Rights Committee. Please encourage committee Chairman Russell Kokubun not to allow a hearing on this deceptive and disingenuous effort. It misrepresents and exploits the role of native Hawaiian science and traditional practice.
Don't be confused by HB 1848. It stinks of rotten fish! It is the same pro-fishing-industry bill introduced nationally that prevents protections of marine ecosystems by self-serving economic interests. A similar stinky fish smell can be traced to a well-orchestrated campaign against the confirmation of DLNR Director Peter Young.
Please tell your legislators not to fall for these thinly disguised corporate efforts to block DLNR from advancing protections of our marine resources. Don't get caught with a stinky fish smell on your hands. Kill HB 1848.
Cha Smith is executive director of KAHEA, a community-based alliance of Hawaiian cultural practitioners and environmental activists.