Don’t get snagged by smelly fishing bill
Legislation that would have checked the state's authority to manage ocean resources has been amended.
AN ill-conceived bill that would have effectively blocked a state agency from carrying out its responsibility to protect Hawaii's ocean resources has been heavily amended
, but the possibility that its original provisions will be restored remain as long as the measure is alive.
As it now stands, the bill's small benefits are outweighed by the encumbrances it places on the ability of the Department of Land and Natural Resources to manage fish populations and other marine life. Lawmakers would do better to reject the legislation completely.
The chief aim of the earlier bill was to require the department to present data virtually impossible to obtain before it could restrict fishing or set regulations for taking marine life from Hawaii waters. Framed thinly as a way to promote traditional Hawaiian practices, the measure was really a ploy to stymie the agency's ability to control overfishing.
Though the measure called for "science based" management, the outrageous data requirements would have forced the department to track individual species throughout their ranges -- which in some cases could include the entire northern Pacific Ocean and beyond -- assess their numbers and submit proof that overfishing was the cause of species decline outside of other environmental factors such as pollution or other ocean conditions.
Moreover, before regulations could be imposed, they would have to be approved by a task force, whose membership would heavily tilt toward commercial fishing interests, setting aside the current rule-making process open to the wider public.
In its current version, the bill would allow community groups to participate in fishery management and give them state funds to help monitor habitats. While community involvement could be beneficial, funds would better be used to increase the department's staff.
Legislators should be commended for gutting the original measure, which would have gutted the state's authority for ocean conservation.
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