Kyl should urge
Akaka Bill vote


As many as six senators are standing in the way of the Hawaiian sovereignty bill reaching the Senate floor.

ARIZONA Sen. Jon Kyl struck a deal last year to drop his procedural freeze on the Hawaiian sovereignty bill and allow its outcome to be determined by the full Senate. However, his last-minute circulation of material objecting to the bill has led to other Republican senators erecting similar barriers. To honor the spirit of his pledge, Kyl should urge his colleagues to allow an up-and-down Senate vote on the Akaka Bill similar to the consideration Kyl and others have demanded for judiciary nominees.

Kyl had put a hold on the Akaka Bill since the last session of Congress. When Sens. Akaka and Inouye threatened to torpedo legislation dear to Kyl by attaching the Akaka Bill as an amendment, Kyl and Majority Leader Bill Fritz agreed to bring the sovereignty bill to the Senate floor by Aug. 7 of this year. Kyl has stepped aside, and Fritz said as recently as this week that the bill would soon be brought to the Senate floor.

However, Senate rules allow any member to put a hold on the bill, and as many as six have done so in the past few days. The obstruction movement followed the June 22 distribution of a lengthy and inflammatory treatise in opposition to the bill by the Senate's Republican Policy Committee, chaired by Kyl.

Kyl distributed a harsh response on Tuesday to a written defense of the bill by Gov. Lingle and Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett. Neither of the bashings distributed by Kyl suggested that the bill should reach the floor.

One of the new obstructionists is Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., apparently reacting to Kyl's warning that the Akaka Bill "leaves open the possibility" that the native Hawaiian governing body could "conduct gambling activities free from state or federal interference." The bill is intended to disallow commercial gambling activities by the Hawaiians' governing body.


Deep-sea protection
is not a sure thing


A strategy will be developed to study and protect the nation's deep-ocean habitats.

CONSERVATIONISTS are understandably impatient with the federal government's sluggish pace for taking action to protect deep-ocean coral and sponge habitats, but at least there is acknowledgment that these colonies merit shields against destructive fishing practices.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's intention to develop a plan to study and protect the habitats is encouraging. However, the process for instituting safeguards likely will take years, if past experience is any indication, and how vigorous they will be is uncertain.

Only in the last decade has research been conducted on creatures that live 100 to 2,000 meters below the ocean's surface. Corals and sponges form complex foundations for biologically rich and diverse habitats that support commercially valuable fish such as cod, pollock, sablefish and shrimp. Destruction of habitats contributes to shortages of species the fishing industry and consumers desire, thus the concern.

In Hawaii, deep-ocean coral harvests feed a lucrative industry for jewelry and other decorative goods. Last month, a federal fishery agency rejected the advice of its scientific panel -- which cited uncertainty about the health of black coral populations -- for a temporary ban on harvesting from a 3-mile stretch of ocean between Maui and Lanai. The action illustrates the difficulty the federal agencies that manage ocean resources have in balancing environmental and commercial interests.

The existence of the corals was first brought to researchers' attention by deep-sea fishing trawlers that drag the ocean bottoms with nets and lines. Ironically, these are the operations that could be hurt should restrictions be imposed.

But that won't happen in the immediate future. The NOAA will first have to complete mapping of habitats, issue status reports, pose a strategy for study, submit rules, conduct hearings and work through other bureaucratic labyrinths. Meanwhile, the undersea ecosystems will have to wait.

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