Friday, June 22, 2001

Fisheries council
approves plan

By Lisa Asato

A fisheries advisory council has approved a plan to create new fisheries guidelines for the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. An opponent called the action "a threat masquerading as a gift."

Dave Raney, chairman of the Sierra Club's Coral Reef Working Group, said the council's plan may sound good, but he warned that it undermines existing, more restrictive protections. He likened it to a Trojan Horse.

"The council passed a plan that provides much less protection to Northwest Hawaiian Islands than already exists," he said. "And more seriously, the council is pressing the Bush administration to accept their plan as a substitute for the executive order."

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council yesterday voted 10-0, with one abstention and two absent, to advance its fisheries management plan for a swath of the Pacific Ocean that covers the Hawaiian Islands, including the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The plan will now be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will then send it to the U.S. Commerce Department for approval.

The move comes six months after then-President Clinton signed an executive order creating the 84-million-acre Northwestern Hawaiian Island Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. The designation is the first step in establishing the area as a sanctuary.

Ray Morioka, one of 13 voting council members, said detractors are wrong to criticize the plan as ignoring or stripping the executive order. The fate of the order is unknown, he said, adding it's the council's job to represent fishermen's interests and balance them with ecological concerns. "We would be derelict if we did not proceed," he said.

The islands are home to about 70 percent of the nation's coral reefs and to endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal. It is also a key nesting ground for more than 14 million seabirds.

Earlier this week, the area also attracted attention from the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy, which wants to enhance existing protections there by designating it a wilderness area.

But local environmentalists have said they are more concerned with the council's efforts to convince the Bush administration to weaken, if not rescind, the executive order.

Stephanie Fried, senior scientist with Environmental Defense, said such a move would spark massive public outcry. She said many fisherman here support the reserve because the Northwest Hawaiian Islands replenishes the fisheries of the major Hawaiian islands. "The executive order that creates that reserve is an insurance policy so people here that fish will continue to have fish," she said. "Folks who fish understand this."

But Timm Timoney, an 18-year commercial fisher in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, supported the plan. She told the council before the vote that the executive order was too restrictive. She said fishermen typically must move from bank to bank to adjust for fish availability, but Clinton's order restricts too many areas for them to adjust. "I'm an endangered species," she said. "The executive order will squeeze us out of existence."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin