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Saturday, June 24, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Guy Tamashiro, center, attending an auction at United
Fishing Agency, says, "It will be cheese and crackers
instead of poke for parties."

Longline fishing
industry calls
ban ‘devastating’

Environmentalists hail
the ruling for the protection
it offers endangered turtles

Sellers: Isle fishing industry will die

By Helen Altonn, Lori Tighe
and Steve Murray


Wholesalers, distributors and other buyers at the Kewalo fish auction today predicted sweeping effects from a court decision they say will kill Hawaii's longline fishing industry.

"It will be cheese and crackers instead of poke for parties," said Guy Tamashiro, selecting fish for Tamashiro's Market.

Only imported frozen fish at high prices will be available to restaurants and markets, he said. Besides jobs directly affected, fuel, bait and other related businesses will be hurt, he said.

"The people of Hawaii really are going to be suffering."

However, environmentalists hailed U.S. District Judge David Ezra's ruling yesterday, saying it will give endangered turtles more protection.

The decision requires all 115 longline fishing boats in Hawaii to have a federally trained observer on board in 30 days, which fishermen say is impossible.

Ezra also ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to finish an environmental impact statement by April 1, 2001, to determine how longline fishing affects sea turtles and other marine animals.

His decision, intended particularly to protect endangered leatherback sea turtles, could halt longline fishing through next year.

"I don't know if the judge fully understood what he did. It's a very devastating ruling to fishermen and consumers of Hawaii," said Sean Martin, director of the Hawaii Longline Association.

"I don't think there's 100 federally trained observers in the whole country," he said.

Jim Cook, chairman of the Western Pacific Fisheries Council, said the NMFS is down to two observers because of budget problems.

"It's going to be a very expensive proposition for them to put 100 percent coverage on vessels operating out of Hawaii.

"However, as the judge points out, they've been very remiss in their duties to the fishery."

Cook said the closure could potentially cost the state of Hawaii $150 million. "Now it's up to them (the fisheries service) to show us what they're going to do about it."

Paul Achitoff, attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, questions whether an EIS completed by the deadline will be well done. If it isn't, "we'll be back in court challenging whether it was properly done."

Meanwhile, Achitoff said longliners can pay for observers on their boats, such as the fishing industry does in Alaska. "Or they can go fish somewhere else."

Cook said attorneys for the Hawaii Longline Association were meeting today to plan a course of action. "It will be fairly clear by Monday as to what direction the industry will take," he said.

The ruling came as a double whammy to Hawaii's fishing industry, which just lost the lobster season this year because of starving monk seals.

Now, under Ezra's decision, Martin said, tuna, swordfish and marlin, which account for the bulk of Hawaii's seafood industry, may not be available.

Those involved with the longline industry say the one-hook, one-fish technique is the safest and most sustainable fishing system.

Purse seiners are the culprits because they swoop up everything in the ocean with huge nets, they said.

But Achitoff said, "Longline fishing is not a very selective form of fishing.

They lay out a couple thousand hooks at a time, let them sit in the water for hours, and whatever they catch they catch," including turtles, albatross and sharks, he said.

Pacific leatherback sea turtles face imminent extinction from commercial fishing, he said.

Martin said Ezra's decision will affect about 600 families in Hawaii's longline industry. But it won't affect boats from other countries, which also hook sea turtles with their lines, he said.

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, which represents the Center for Marine Conservation and Turtle Island Restoration Network, sued the National Marine Fisheries Service in February 1999.

It said the agency failed to protect turtles from being killed by longline fishing, a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Longlining was doing to the sea turtles what drift-netting was doing to the dolphins, environmentalists said.

Ezra granted an injunction on Nov. 23, which closed longline fishing in Hawaii's northern waters.

He expanded on that injunction yesterday and extended the areas north and south of the state where longline fishing will be banned without 100 percent observer coverage.

Longline fishing catches more seafood than any type of fishing in Hawaii.

In 1997, longliners brought in about 16 million pounds of fish.

Trolling, the second largest type of fishing, produced about 2.5 million pounds of fish.

Isle fishing industry
will die, sellers say

They say the longline fishing
method is safe environmentally

By Helen Altonn


United Fishing Agency manager Frank Goto watched over a busy fish auction this morning, thinking of days ahead when the supply "is going to be sadly lacking."

Goto said the state "has done a tremendous job" promoting big catches of swordfish, mahi and other species for local consumers and tourists.

He said "a lot of chefs are concerned" about a federal requirement for trained observers on all longline vessels because they aren't available. "It's a very disturbing decision."

Also, it's not the fishermen's fault that it is taking the National Marine Fisheries Service so long to prepare an environmental impact statement about longline fishing, Goto said. Yet the fishermen are directly affected, he said.

"It's disastrous but not a total shock because of decisions made on false information about the industry," said Keola Fonseca, who is at the auction six days a week all year buying fish for Fresh Island Fish, a wholesale company.

Unlike mile-long nets that scrape the whole ocean," he said, longlining is "an environmentally safe" fishing method.

"A big part of Hawaii's charm is seafood," he said. "This (decision) is going to destroy it."

Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro's Market said the longline fleet has grown from a few dozen boats to where there is fish almost every day.

But if the boats can't work for a couple months because they don't have observers, they will move to another area, he said. "It's ridiculous -- absolutely ridiculous."

Robert S. Fram, representing Garden & Valley Isle Seafood, Inc., said longliners are unfairly targeted. They might get 10 turtle deaths a year compared with hundreds killed in nets, he said, advocating a "no net" policy to protect dolphins, seals and turtles.

"It's really frustrating for us. We're proud of the hook and line industry because it is a sustainable fishery."

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