Sunday, June 17, 2001

Fishery Council
meets to find
alternatives to a
bottomfishing ban

By Gary T. Kubota

Oahu residents Kyle and Kathryn Vanderpool say restrictions imposed by former President Clinton have prompted their fish buyers to do business with other countries and cut marketing promotions.

"Now due to the actions of the federal government, we can no longer assure our customers we will have the continued ability to deliver the product to them," said Kathryn Vanderpool, whose family has been in fishing for 34 years.

From the harbors to the restaurants in Hawaii, business people say they are beginning to feel the impact of Clinton's executive order to preserve reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The 84-million-acre reserve is the source for 50 percent of the bottom fish market in the Hawaii, including onaga, opakapaka and ehu. But it is also home to a number of threatened and endangered species, such as the monk seal.


Problems confronting Hawaii's bottomfishing people are expected to be discussed during the 110th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council starting tomorrow.

The council, an advisory group to the National Marine Fisheries Service, will be meeting through Thursday at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Fishing people say through the council's recommendations, the number of Hawaii bottomfishing boats permits have been reduced from more than 100 to 17, and the existing restrictions are enough.

Under Clinton's Northwest Hawaiian Island Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, bottomfishing may be banned in two-thirds of the reserve and lead to intense fishing within a small area, critics say.

The plan also calls for capping the amount of fish for each boat based on a five-year average and forbidding boats to transfer ownership.

Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds said she has no problem with the reserve being designated a sanctuary but she believes adequate controls are in place and there is no need for the bottomfish ban.

"We just don't agree with any of the fishing measures that the reserve outlines," she said.

The council plans to move forward with its own proposal for managing the reserve area and to submit it to the head of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Council spokeswoman Sylvia Spalding said an advisory group will probably take two to three years before having the reserve designated as a marine sanctuary.

She said in the meantime, the council has asked the Bush administration to review Clinton's executive order. Clinton's executive order last December followed a major court decision by U.S. District Judge Samuel King.

King ordered the closure of the lobster fishery in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands until an environmental analysis was completed by the federal government about its impact on the monk seal.

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund alleged the National Marine Fisheries Service had not done its job in protecting the monk seal from lobster and bottomfish fishing.

Officials representing Earthjustice in Hawaii were traveling on the U.S. mainland and unavailable for comment about the council's meeting.

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