Whales will hear, avoid Superferry, expert says
A marine biologist testifies that the ship is built in a way that mitigates the dangers
The Hawaii Superferry's impact on whales would be "negligible" in part because it has no propellers, but rather a noisy jet propulsion system that would alert marine mammals to its approach, an expert testified yesterday.
Mark Fraker, a marine biologist, took the stand following the conclusion of testimony from the plaintiffs' whale expert, Greg Kaufman, who was on and off the stand for 10 days.
The Superferry's maneuverability and "small cross section" are other factors mitigating whale-vessel collisions, said Fraker, based in British Columbia.
His background includes environmental studies on killer whales and otters related to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. He also has studied population parameters in cetaceans and has taken part in a variety of other studies on seals, sea lions and bowhead whales.
While plaintiff attorneys argued to have Fraker's expertise limited to marine mammals in Alaska, Judge Joseph Cardoza granted expert qualification based on education, training and knowledge.
The Superferry's vessel Alakai, propelled by jets of water, "will most likely alert whales to its presence and motion," Fraker said.
In fact, noise from the ferry, he said, "has been suggested as a key factor to instigate normal evasive behaviors in whales."
Isaac Hall, the attorney for the environmental groups that are seeking an injunction against the Superferry, questioned Fraker's citations on noise. He also read from a baleen whale study cited by Fraker that noted that humpback whales are slow swimmers.
In addition to having dedicated whale watch observers, Fraker said, the Hawaii Superferry's route avoids areas where whale densities are the greatest.
Fraker called the loss of one to two animals "unfortunate" but a possible consequence, given that the humpback whale population is around 8,000.
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Kauai official ponders charges for protesters
Kauai's prosecuting attorney will investigate whether to charge at least six people arrested in connection with the Hawaii Superferry protests.
On Tuesday the defendants were scheduled for arraignment in Circuit Court, but prosecutors failed to file complaints against them.
"No formal charges were filed," said Kauai Prosecutor Craig De Costa. "Their arraignment date was canceled, pending a review of police reports once we get them."
Charges against the defendants stem from the Aug. 26 and 27 protests at Nawiliwili Harbor when they were arrested on suspicion of state misdemeanor crimes such as criminal trespassing.
Fourteen people were arrested over those two days, including four juveniles, police said.
While the defendants could face another arraignment date, at least one defendant's case was dropped. Police said Timothy Rysdale was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing on Coast Guard property on Aug. 29, two days after the protests.
After talking with the Coast Guard, prosecutors found "the defendant's intent on trespassing on Coast Guard property was not malicious," De Costa said.
Police still had not turned over reports for four cases yesterday, while reports for two cases were delivered too late for Tuesday's arraignment.
As in Rysdale's case, the incoming reports could have insufficient evidence to bring charges because the police were distracted, focusing on the public's safety, De Costa said.
"We might not be able to charge the four because there may be discrepancies between the Police Department and other agencies witnessing (the incident)," he said.
Prosecutors have since met with law enforcement agencies to improve interagency coordination in future incidents, he said.
Kauai police Capt. Ale Quibilan, incident commander at the protests, said he did not know why the police reports were delayed, but plans to see that they are completed in the next couple of days.
"The arrests were done in this big confusion of trying to secure the harbor," he said, adding that while the arrests were proper, authorities might not be able to prove in court that a crime was committed. *
Saturday, October 6, 2007
» Kauai police Capt. Ale Quibilan said the arrests of Superferry protesters at Nawiliwili Harbor were proper but that in some cases authorities might not be able to prove in court that a crime was committed. A Page A5 article Thursday incorrectly paraphrased him as saying that some of the arrests might have been unwarranted.
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