Trip leaves Case
resolved to
protect islands

The legislator says all fishing
should be banned in the ocean
reserve he just visited

U.S. Rep. Ed Case said his visit to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has strengthened his desire to protect them permanently from fishing and other human impacts.

On Tern Island, Case held a seabird while wildlife technicians put an ID band on its leg, and he saw endangered Hawaiian monk seals lolling on its beaches.

"I think I got a good sense of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but I only saw three of many places (Nihoa and Mokumanamana islands and French Frigate Shoals)," Case said yesterday after he returned to Honolulu from a brief visit to the islands.

"I spent a long time, for a nonscientist, trying to understand what was happening there. It's part of my district and I am responsible for it," Case said. "I think it's come to a fork in the road where choices need to be made."

For Case, that means preservation of the uninhabited islands and atolls that stretch for 1,200 miles northwest of Kauai. He has studied the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and does not believe that law, as it is written, gives enough protection to the area.

"I think when you spend any time in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that you see this should be a pure refuge," he said.

A swath of ocean 50 miles on either side of the islands is currently the Northwestern Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, undergoing transformation into a National Marine Sanctuary. Nine boats are allowed to catch about 200,000 pounds of bottom fish there annually. But Case does not believe any fishing should be taking place in the area.

When he introduced his preservation bill in May, Case told fellow members of Congress that the proposed refuge would be larger than Australia's Great Barrier Reef. And he compared Hawaii's northwestern islands to Yellowstone, the country's first national park. Now Case says he will seek support for the bill from other lawmakers.

"I'm going to tell them I've been up there," he said yesterday aboard the NOAA research ship Hi'ialakai. "I'll tell them that despite the good intentions of a lot of people, this place is going to deteriorate" unless more protection is given.

Cha Smith, executive director of KAHEA (the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance), said she supports Case's bill. Western Pacific Regional Fishery Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds does not.

| | |
E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com