take their protest
to the public
Hundreds attend a newsBy Steve Murray
conference and chant a
'let us fish' message
Chanting "Let us fish," hundreds outside the federal building yesterday protested the longline fishing ban.
The protest came during a Hawaii Longline Association news conference, where president Sean Martin said the group wanted to inform the public on the negative impact of the ban.
Patrick McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said the ban would lessen the availability of fish in Hawaii. "Get ready for tilapia specials," he said.
McCain said the ban would affect not only the fishing industry but the restaurant and tourist industry in the state.
"In a tourist destination like Hawaii to not have Hawaii fish available, what are we gonna do? Serve hamburgers?" he asked.
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, an environmental organization, has sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect endangered and threatened sea turtles. U.S. District Judge David Ezra closed a major portion of the State's fishery and limited longlining in another area.
The judge also has ordered the Fisheries Service to place observers on every longline boat in Hawaii.
Fisherman carried signs saying,"Don't force us into welfare," while children wore signs saying, "Save my dad's job."
Jim Cook, administrator of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, said the plaintiffs are trying to portray the industry in a negative manner.
Cook said one of the plaintiffs in the case, the Center for Marine Conservation, has been targeting the Vietnamese community.
"I take issue with the Center for Marine Conservation, with their view that this is some group of foreign nationals roving around Hawaii's waters and stealing our resources," Cook said.
Timor Tran, who was born in Vietnam and has been fishing in Hawaii since 1975, called the plaintiffs' action scary.
"We are proud to be Hawaii residents and American citizens," he said. "Why should it matter where some of us were born?"
But Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice objected to the allegations, saying neither he nor his clients have ever raised the issue and "it's regrettable that somebody has."
"I think that it's sad that anyone would try to turn an environmental case into a matter involving ethnic tensions," Achitoff said.
"Certainly the plaintiffs have no such interest. The backgrounds of the longliners are irrelevant to the merits of this case and the plaintiffs' reason for bringing it before the court," he said.
Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.