News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.
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News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at:

Red. Handed.

Posted by Miwa at Jun 23, 2009 05:07 PM |
Filed under: , ,

Vessel caught illegally fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands:

A Coast Guard search plane on patrol of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument spotted a U.S.-flagged vessel fishing in a special preservation area within the monument on June 15. The Coast Guard said it took video and still photos of the vessel’s crew hauling its lines out of the water and the ship then “abruptly getting underway.”

The aircraft flew out of sight, but when it returned the vessel’s crew had put its lines back in the water and resumed fishing, the Coast Guard said. The incident was reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement, which ordered the vessel to cease fishing and return to Honolulu.

The name of the vessel, which reached port on Saturday, was not released because the case is under investigation. The vessel’s owner faces charges of illegally fishing in the national monument and fines from $1,000 to $130,000 for a repeat offense.

Papahanaumokuakea spans nearly 140,000 miles and is the largest marine protected area in the world. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands chain is home to more than 7,000 marine species and is the primary habitat for critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles.

See full article in the Honolulu Advertiser.

Navy and WESPAC stand in way of Marine Monuments in the Pacific

Posted by Miwa at Feb 10, 2009 08:07 PM |

Some random quotes about the opposition to marine monuments in the Pacific from “Islands Business International” a Fijian on-line newspaper.

The obstacles it cites: first the Navy, then WESPAC.

Ironically, the most significant opposition to extending the monuments to the full EEZs of the 11 islands had nothing to do with fishing: it came from the US Navy. Even though Bush specified in a memorandum last August that the monument designation “should not limit the department of defense from carrying out its mission” in the Pacific, senior Pentagon officials expressed concern that it could lead to future restrictions on their ability to carry out their tasks. They cited lawsuits restricting the use of active sonar, which injures whales and dolphins, that arose from Bush’s designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands monument two years ago. “Without the Navy, I think the monuments would have been a lot bigger,” said one environmentalist.”

But that did not prevent aggressive pushback from Pacific marine conservationists’ old nemesis, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, a federal agency whose executive director, Kitty Simonds, has fought restrictions on fishing for three decades. Wespac is tasked with protecting the interests of fishing companies as well as insuring that these interests don’t reduce fish stocks, but it has presided over the rapid collapse of lobster stocks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and a steep decline in the fish stocks of the Main Hawaiian Islands. It has even encouraged the issuance of commercial bottom-fishing and lobster-fishing permits in the National Wildlife Refuges of Baker, Howland, Kingman, Jarvis, Johnston and Palmyra, in violation of federal laws, says Jim Maragos, a veteran Fish and Wildlife Service scientist.

In Saipan, where tourism and the garment industry are in free-fall, a pro-monument petition attracted 6000 signatures and the Hotel Association and the Chamber of Commerce endorsed turning the waters around the three northernmost islands—Maug, Asuncion and Uracus—into a marine national monument. “Almost no one is able to enjoy these islands at this time,” wrote Lynn Knight, chairwoman of the association, in a letter to Bush, while monument status would “boost the local economy in promoting ecotourism”.

In contrast, the governor and most of the legislature have voiced their opposition to what they call “The Pew Monument” in language that strikingly resembles Wespac’s.

“The opposition was led by Wespac in every regard,” said Rick Gaffney, a former Wespac council member. “Without Wespac,” added Andrew Salas, a former Marianas legislator, “the opposition would have been minimal. There would have been a bit of grumbling because relations between the Marianas government and the federal government are pretty bad these days, but that’s it, because the overwhelming majority of the people support the monument.”

Wespac is under investigation by the US General Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Commerce Department for suspected illegal lobbying. In a letter to Bush that received wide publicity in Saipan, Aha Kiole, an organisation essentially created by Wespac to prevent marine reserves from being created in Hawaii, accused the president of having created the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands reserve “without the participation of the Native Hawaiian people,” all of whom feel “anger, trepidation and despair” whenever the monument “is mentioned.” Although more than 100 hearings were held on the issue over six years, the letter asserts that most Hawaiians “did not know that the Pew Foundation was planning to take three-fourths of Hawaiian lands and make it into a monument.” (In fact, the total land area of the ten-islet monument is 13 sq km, while the rest of Hawaii totals 16,635sq km).

The Marianas monument, the letter continued, “will take an integral part of the Marianas culture away from the native people—with no hope of ever getting this part of their heritage back”. Like all federal agencies, Wespac is barred from spending federal funds to lobby the legislative branches of state and federal government. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and the Inspector General of the Commerce Department are currently both investigating allegations that Wespac lobbied the US Congress and the Hawaii legislature to push its pro-fishing, anti-conservation agenda, notably in creating Aha Kiole.

In Saipan, much of the political elite has ties to Wespac. The governor’s chief of staff, Ray Mafnas, is a senior, unsalaried Wespac official who collects over US$600 a day every time he travels for Wespac. Arnold Palacios, Speaker of the House, is a former member of the Wespac council. He wrote in a letter to Bush that the “loss of control over such a vast area of land and water is an assault on the traditions and culture of the islands.” The representative Speaker Palacios appointed as chairman of the House Federal Relations Committee, Representative Diego Benavente, is a former lieutenant governor who is running for governor. He engineered the approval of two He was president of the Saipan Fishermen’s Association in 2005 when it got a US$150,000 grant from Wespac to rent and equip a store to sell its members’ catch. But this past December, the Marianas Variety reported that the store had closed two months after it opened because of unexpected expenses “like utilities, rent, and salaries.”

Benavente was quoted as saying: “We ran out of money, basically.”

Valentin Taisakan, the mayor of the Northern Islands Municipality, which lies south of the three islands designated as a monument by Bush in January, also wrote to Bush in opposition to the monument. Taisakan, who lives in Saipan, received a US$90,000 Wespac grant to create a fishing base in his remote municipality, but the base never opened, according to Saipan sources. In another letter to Bush opposing the designation, Juan Borja Tudela, the mayor of Saipan, where most of the Marianas’ 65,000 people live, said the monument waters should be left under the control of Wespac, which he called “much more sensitive to the Pacific Islanders’ way of life.” Wespac’s vice-chairman, Manny Duenas, head of a fishermen’s group in Guam, went further in his own letter to Bush. “The taking of our marine resources may be construed as being no different than cattle rustling” and it would “serve as a springboard to ensure the cultural genocide of a people,” he wrote. The result of all this opposition, and of negotiations between James Connaughton, Bush’s environmental adviser, and Gov. Benigno Fitial, was a Marianas marine reserve truncated into three segments, all falling far short of the goals articulated by its proponents.”

Kitty: Here's a mirror

evans-and-kitty-fishfestIf Kitty Simonds (WESPAC Exec.) really believes what she wrote in this Sunday-Editorial, then this woman needs to take a good look in the mirror.  She calls out the U.S. military for the harm its presence causes the people of the Pacific, when WESPAC’s own mismanagement over the last 25 years has decimated multiple fisheries here.

Yes, the U.S. military should not be stationing troops and conducting exercises in the fragile and important waters surrounding these island-nations.  At the same time, WESPAC should not be tyring to exploit their resources for U.S. commercial extraction either.

WESPAC and the U.S. military: they are the left and right boots of the U.S. empiral march over the people of the Pacific.

That said, I had to laugh reading this.  It is just so ironic to hear Kitty of all people advocating for more transparency and public participation in the decision-making process.  (Someone please launch the pigs.)

WESPAC has been one of the worst offenders when it comes to open government.  Not only is WESPAC under investigation by two federal agencies for misuse of federal funds, but we and few other groups just filed suit against them for failing to release government records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Adding to the irony of Kitty’s argument here: there were public hearings held on the designation of additional marine monuments throughout the Pacific.  I attended the one in Honolulu myself.   It was conveniently located just down the block from WESPAC’s annual 3-day meeting.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of the WESPAC representatives at that public hearing on the monuments.

Marine monuments shouldn’t have higher priority than people
By Kitty Simonds
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
January 18, 2009

WestPac – The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council – appreciates the Bush administration’s recognition that the newly proclaimed U.S. Pacific island marine monument waters have been “effectively regulated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and by WestPac.” These new national monuments “are complementary strategies” to the fisheries management plans developed by the council, noted Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality.

Under the council’s plans, a ban on all fishing from 0 to 50 fathoms (300 feet) depth has been in effect since 2004 in all of the areas. Coral reefs do not live below this depth. Pelagic fishing by vessels larger than 50 feet in length has been banned within 50 miles of the Rose Atoll wildlife refuge in American Samoa since 2002. Under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge status, commercial fishing has been banned within 12 miles of Palmyra since 2001.

The council looks forward to continuing its work to protect everyone’s interest in these areas.

However, it is concerned that the Antiquities Act, used to create these enormous marine monuments, currently bypasses the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates an environmental review as well as an appropriate participatory process for the indigenous people and other members of the public. The Antiquities Act should be amended to require NEPA as well as congressional approval of future monuments, as it does in Wyoming and Alaska.

The U.S. Pacific Islands now account for half of the marine protected areas in the United States. Local commercial fishermen are banned from nearly a quarter of the waters surrounding the U.S. Pacific islands. The significant loss of fishing areas can be counterproductive to sustainable fishery goals. Reduction of available fishing areas often leads to increased fishing pressure in other areas. It also undermines cultural and ecological goals. Our populations consume three times the national average in seafood and should be able to eat their own fish. When local fisheries are closed, the consequence is air-freighting imported fresh fish, which has negative effects on climate change and ocean acidification by increasing the U.S. carbon footprint. The U.S. currently imports 86 percent of its seafood.

While well-regulated and monitored commercial fishing with no proven negative ecosystem effects are being banned, other activities that can harm the monument resources will be allowed. Military activities will continue and are expected to increase with the relocation of 8,000 Marines, plus their families, and 15,000 contract workers to Guam.

Military bombing in nearby Farallon de Medinilla in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is allowed to kill all the endangered megapodes (a flightless bird) on the island, under a Fish & Wildlife Service-issued biological opinion. Hawksbill, green and leatherback sea turtles, fruit bats and other plant and animal species are also affected by the bombing and other military activities.

The Bush administration has compared the new monuments to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where monument designation has led to increased human activity from tourists, visitors and researchers. While traditional indigenous fishing is permitted, the fish must be consumed within the monument and cannot be brought back to family and communities.

The only way to realize the president’s dream for the new monuments is through much-needed funds to the U.S. Coast Guard and local government agencies to adequately patrol and enforce the waters surrounding the U.S. Pacific islands. The Marianas’ waters are within 1,500 to 2,000 miles of the Asian mainland and Southeast Asia and could be accessed by every major Asian fishing fleet.

We look forward to the promised economic bounty that the Marianas and American Samoa communities will receive from the monument designation, but hopefully, if it comes, it will not be at the expense of the environment or the indigenous people. Kitty Simonds is executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Are they hoping nobody would notice?

From Marti:

Late in the day on December 23rd, the final version of the Monument management plan was quietly published on the Papahānaumokuākea website.  No press release. No email to the list serv.  Just a quick post on the eve of the Eve of Christmas, which just happened to get picked up in a google alert days later.

Given all the eco-mojo the Bush Administration has tried to squish out of this “blue asterisk,” you would expect a mighty deal be made of finally finishing the management plan two years later.  The fact that the release was so secretive has gotta make you wonder what’s actually in it.

On their website, James Connaugton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality is quoted as saying:

“When President Bush first designated the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in June 2006, his goal was to move beyond just thinking about conservation to carefully managing this important area.”

Yikes! What does the federal government mean exactly when it says “move beyond” conservation?

Well, from what we see in the plan it means:

  • no limit on military activities affecting Monument resources (not even a discussion of what it would take to abide by the proclamation and “minimize and mitigate” half-pound pieces of fiery shrapnel hitting Nihoa).
  • no ban on bioprospecting, which is the taking of public trust resources for exploitation and profit by corporations, academic institutions, and private individuals.
  • no limit on the number of people that can access and/or take from this “no take” reserve.
  • no assessment of the cumulative risks and impacts of past and anticipated human activity in the Monument.
  • no public advisory council, which has been key in forcing transparent & accountable decisionmaking.

Over 50% of the proposed 355 million-dollar budget is for government operations and research, while a mere 12% goes to reducing existing threats, like clean-up of marine debris and legacy military contamination. The plan also fails to allocate sufficient resources for Native Hawaiian involvement in Monument decision-making, and leaves decision-making to a closed-door Monument Management Board.

The plan essentially abandons the “precautionary principle,” which was a hallmark of the State’s visionary pre-monument protections that required biological, cultural and historic resource integrity be favored when the impacts of any proposed activity were uncertain.

So while the revised vision, mission, and goals now commit to conservation as the purpose of the Monument, you can see that the actions to implement this plan remain largely unimproved over the weak draft released earlier this Spring.

When the draft version of this plan was released, the National Wildlife Federation, the Center for Biological Diversity and more than a dozen other organizations–representing well over 5 million people–joined KAHEA in strongly criticizing the management plan.  Despite two years of advocacy, and thousands of public letters and comments calling for a stronger, more protective plan, it is apparent that our united call for a true pu‘uhonua didn’t fit with the federal government’s vision for the future of “conservation” in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

So, here’s our take – a quote for the papers  – on the federal government’s attempt to “move beyond” conservation:

“This is conservation on paper, but not in practice. They have reshuffled the goals to say ‘full conservation’ but their proposed actions speak louder than their words. They are exempting increased military exercises proposed for this extremely delicate ocean habitat from management. They are proposing increased tourism, new construction, and extractive research without adequate public oversight and Native Hawaiian consultation,” said Marti Townsend, Program Director of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance.

To learn more about this issue, including a detailed review of the draft plan, visit our website at:

Lubchenco to head NOAA

Posted by Miwa at Dec 19, 2008 03:12 AM |
Filed under: , , ,

From todayʻs Washington Post, looks like Oregon Professor will be tapped to head up the National Ocean and Atospheric Administration. NOAA is one of three co-trustees (the other two are the Department of Interior and the State of Hawaii) entrusted with conservation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Feds Will Consider More Critical Habitat for Monk Seal

On Friday, in response to a petition from KAHEA, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it will consider designating additional critical habitat for the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal in the Northwestern as well as Main Hawaiian Islands. This is an important first step! Hawaiian monk seals are today one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.

The petition seeks to have beaches and surrounding waters throughout Hawai’i protected as critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals under the Endangered Species Act.

What will more critical habitat for monk seals do? More critical habitat will require the federal government to limit federal activities that could harm the beaches and nearshore waters used by monk seals. It will prevent the federal government from permitting a private development or constructing a federal highway that might harm protected critical habitat.  It would also give the State access to federal funds to support state efforts to encourage monk seal recovery.

What does it NOT do? This would not in any way limit public access to beaches or give the federal government any new control over our beaches or add any new restrictions on fishing.

Why do we need more critical habitat?The monk seal currently has critical habitat designated only in areas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where monk seals are dying of starvation and populations of monk seals are plummeting. Seal pups have only about a one-in-five chance of surviving to adulthood. Other threats include becoming entangled and drowning in abandoned fishing gear, shark predation, and disease.

At the same time, the main islands are becoming increasingly important habitat for the monk seals.  Monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands are thriving and giving birth to healthy pups. Hawaiian monk seals are present on each of the main islands, and their numbers are steadily increasing.

“This government finding that it will consider designating critical habitat for monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands marks an important step toward preventing the extinction of the Hawaiian monk seal,” said Miyoko Sakashita, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the petition. “Habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands is essential for the survival of the imperiled monk seals.”

Habitat in the main islands will also provide a refuge for monk seals as sea-level rise floods the low-lying Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Global warming is an overarching threat to the Hawaiian monk seal and its habitat. Already, important beaches where seal pups are born and raised have been lost due to sea-level rise and erosion.

“We have already seen the extinction of the Caribbean monk seal–a relative of the Hawaiian monk seal. The threat is real and we must act now,” said Vicki Cornish, vice president of marine wildlife conservation at Ocean Conservancy.  “We are greatly encouraged by this consideration to extend critical habitat designation in the main Hawaiian Islands. It is a necessary step in making sure Hawaiian monk seals do not suffer the same fate as their relatives.”

Critical habitat designation will mean greater protection of Hawaiian monk seal habitat under the Endangered Species Act. Once designated, any federal activities that may affect the critical habitat must undergo review to ensure that those activities do not harm the Hawaiian monk seal or its habitat.

In passing the Endangered Species Act, Congress emphasized the importance of critical habitat, stating that “the ultimate effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act will depend on the designation of critical habitat.” Recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to recover as species without it.

“What happens in the coming few years will determine the survival of this species,” according to Marti Townsend, Program Director of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance.   “We cannot afford the extinction of a creature so sacred in Hawaiian culture and endemic to these islands. And we cannot expect to save this species without engaging in the hard task of meaningfully protecting habitat.”

more info at

Honolulu NWHI Hearing Online

Video of the Honolulu hearing on the Draft Management Plan for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands held in Honolulu on June 24th. The 1,200 page plan will direct the future of public trust resources in the last, large intact Hawaiian reef ecosystem in the world.

At the hearing, leading local conservation voices, including Keiko Bonk, Marjorie Ziegler, Dr. Stephanie Fried, Kyle Kajihiro, Leila Hubbard, Dave Raney, Don May and KAHEA staff (Evan, Bryna, Marti, and Miwa) testified to their concerns about the draft plan. (Testimony starts at 33:30).

In the largest no-take marine reserve on the planet, this draft of the Federal/State plan is proposing: the construction of a “small municipality” on Midway, new cruise ships, more tourists, increases in extractive research, new risks of invasive species introductions, exemptions for fishing, and opening of the area to bioprospecting. An expansion of military activities–including sonar, ballistic missile interceptions, and chemical warfare simulations–would be allowed to go forward with no mitigations. The plan also disbands the existing citizen advisory council, which is pretty much the only opportunity for members of the public (non-government scientists, advocates, cultural practitioners, and resource experts) to participate in decision-making.

You can also watch the hearings on `Olelo Channel 52.

You can support by submitting your own written comments, signing our petition, and spreading the word. Mahalo piha to the thousands who have already supported the call for a better plan!

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