News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.
Showing blog entries tagged as: fisheries

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

Wanted: Old Seal Stories

As part of ongoing efforts to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, federal officials are turning to old Hawaiian chants and songs. The purpose: to battle misperceptions that the Hawaiian monk seal is an invasive species that does not deserve protection.

“This ain’t the mongoose; this animal was here before any of us,” says David Schofield, Monk Seal Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The problem, however, is to document the animal’s presence here.  To that end, NOAA is working with Hawaiian cultural experts to find references to the monk seal in traditional oli and mele.  NOAA also is asking people to ask kupuna if they know of any old stories involving the sea mammals. The point, Schofield says, is not to invent tall tales about seals, but document the animals’ presence through oral histories and other documents. 

For instance, Schofield says, volunteers interested in helping might research archives, such as the Bishop Museum, to find old references to the animals.

This research is just a small piece of what NOAA is trying to do to help the seals. The agency is charged with protecting beached seals, rescuing animals that have been hooked or entangled in fishing nets, counting seals, relocating animals that become too habituated to people, and informing the public about the animals. Part of this public outreach campaign lately has involved dealing with a growing rumor: that monk seals are not from here.  This ugly rumor has led some people to refuse to give monk seals the deference the animals deserve when it comes to sharing the water. And that’s a problem.

Known in Hawaiian as ‘Ilio holo I ka uaua, or the dog that runs in rough water, the Hawaiian monk seal has been recorded in the islands as far back as the 19th century.

Empty Reefs

Posted by alanakahea at Jun 24, 2009 04:38 PM |

From Alana:

This BBC News video shows how the growing demand for fish in places like inland China is putting a huge stress on coral reefs. Most adult fish have been caught, so the majority of fish sold in markets are juveniles that have not had a chance to reproduce yet. Because of this trend there has been a downward spiral in fish populations and reef health worldwide.

The world needs stricter fishing regulations ASAP, and if that doesn’t happen we will probably see the  collapse of entire ocean ecosystems in our lifetimes.

Fishing in NWHI?

From Alana:

On June 15, the third anniversary of the designation of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as a national monument, a boat that was caught  fishing multiple times in a highly protected area of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The bottom-fishing boat was in a very restricted area of the monument, which extends 50 miles from each of the atolls. This sanctuary is the main home for dozens of highly endangered species including the hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle. Considering that, and all the press they’ve been getting, one would think they are facing huge charges.

The truth is that they are only facing $130,000 to as little as $1,000 in fines.

Wait, wasn’t a woman just charged $1.9 MILLION for downloading 24 songs illegally off of the internet?

This is a repeat offense case. The fishermen obviously knew where they were becasue of their reaction to the plane. Why doesn’t the government use this case to set an example for others who might have plans to fish in the protected area?

This boat is one of eight Honolulu-based fishing boats permitted to fish in a designated area of the monument. The boat was fishing outside of this area, but it still raises the question: why are these eight boats allowed there at all? What are their restrictions and how do we know they are following them?

Mismanagement needs to be dealt with now, and the correct consequences need to be issued.

Here is the article from the Honolulu Advertiser.

Monk Seal Protection Update

from Stewart:

After the Surfrider Foundation’s Kauai chapter offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for killing two Hawaiian monk seals on Kauai, it raised an obvious question: Why is the Surfrider Foundation having to offer a reward? Where is the federal government?

It turns out officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration enforcement division have been investigating the monk seal shootings and went so far as to search a white pick-up truck in hopes of finding the gun used to shoot one of the seals. Click here to read the article. The special agent in charge of NOAA’s Pacific enforcement offfice said the investigation involves a lot of gum shoe detective work and that agents have been able to find some witnesses despite the remoteness of the areas where the seals were killed.

The feds are not just investigating killings; they are also proposing to expand monk seal habitat. In response to a petition from Kahea and two other organizations, the federal government last week announced it would expand the monk seal’s critical habitat to include portions of the main Hawaiian Islands. Here’s the link. The move will not restrict recreational activities like fishing or surfing in the critical habitat areas, but will restrict federal government activities and activities that require federal permits, such as dredging and coastal development.

NOAA has published the regulations expanding the habitat in the Federal Register. Here’s the regulation. And the public has the right to comment; please sign Kahea’s petition in support of the habitat protection.

In the meantime, here’s some monk seal trivia gleaned from NOAA’s proposed regulations.

– Despite concerns of some local fisherman that monk seals are competing for fish, studies have shown that seals prefer eels, wrasses, and bottom-dwelling benthic species and therefore do not compete for many of the fish humans seek to catch for sport and sustenance.

– NOAA received over 100 comments in support of expanding the monk seal’s critical habitat to the main Hawaiian Island; people see the main islands as essential because monk seals are in better physical condition on the main islands than the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and because the low-lying islands and atolls of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands are losing seal habitat because of rising sea levels.

– Scientists believe monk seals occurred in the main Hawaiian Islands before the arrival of humans and are indigenous to the whole Hawaiian Archipelago; the monk seals are believed to have been driven from the main Hawaiian Islands by hunting.

Restoring culture and game fish

Posted by alanakahea at Jun 16, 2009 08:03 PM |

From Alana:

These days it seems like everyone who regularly fishes in the Islands have one question on their minds: where have all the fish gone? No, they didn’t swim away. No, they haven’t gone to another fishing spot. They have actually all been caught. This is the result of roughly a century of unregulated fishing in Hawai’i. And now solutions are finally being sought. The kapu system, which governed what fish could be caught and when, reigned in pre-contact days, and might be making a comeback. Although this system might mean less weekends fishing, and more weekends basking on shore, popular game fish populations like ulua and mahi-mahi could be restored, and the so could the joy of a giant catch.
Read about how this system works on Moloka’i here.

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.

Citizen Groups Sue Federal Fisheries Group for Failing to Disclose Use of Funds

Posted by Miwa at Jan 22, 2009 07:37 PM |
money.jpg (JPEG Image, 600x600 pixels) - Scaled (88%)

A lawsuit seeking basic government documents has been filed in Federal District Court against the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) by the Conservation Council for Hawaii, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance (KAHEA), and the LOST FISH Coalition.

The lawsuit was filed to gain access to documents requested by the plaintiffs in a November 14, 2007, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted to WESPAC seeking basic budget, grant, and contract information. Tina Owens from the LOST FISH Coalition said, “In addition to shedding light on the long-hidden and most basic internal operations of this controversial federal entity, the documents may also shed light on how WESPAC funds may have been used in what appears to be various lobbying campaigns to influence state and federal legislative and executive branch decisions related to marine conservation in Western Pacific waters.” Miwa Tamanaha, KAHEA Executive Director noted, “Wise, sound, community-based management requires accountability and transparency. If there is nothing improper, then there should be nothing to hide. With the situation of our ocean resources so imperiled, it is ridiculous that citizen groups should have go to these lengths to get basic information about use of our public dollars.”

WESPAC has been under scrutiny related to allegations of illegal lobbying, including actions to try and halt the NWHI and CNMI National Marine Monument declarations, and for funding the controversial Puwalu Series, a lobbying ploy to pass legislation curtailing community-based-fishing-management programs in Hawai`i. Based in Honolulu, WESPAC is the subject of at least two active federal investigations; one by the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General (IG), and another by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Tina Owens also said, “Getting any public information from WESPAC is virtually impossible, and that’s not only not right, it’s not legal. This is a federal entity, funded by taxpayers’ money and unless specific documents fall under one of a few narrow FOIA exceptions, every document in their possession must be open to the public. Back in October of 2007, the public was told by WESPAC Executive Director Kitty Simonds that WESPAC’s library and all of its documents “…are open to the public at any time,”  For months I tried to access the WESPAC library and WESPAC documents, and at each turn Ms. Simonds put up new roadblocks to my access, often at significant cost and inconvenience.  When she could ignore me no more, she backtracked and stated that I had to file a Freedom of Information Act request.  So I did. Then she ignored that as well. What is WESPAC hiding? How can a federal entity treat the public like this? They need to realize they are answerable to the public.”

While disclosure of public documents is required under Federal Law, the WESPAC situation is made worse by WESPAC’s refusal to use uniform information procedures.  “There is a shocking insensitivity of WESPAC and its executive director, Kitty Simonds, to the required open and transparent decisionmaking,” said lead counsel Peter Van Tuyn, Esq.  “As President Obama states, a ‘democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.’”  This lawsuit is intended to force the doors open on this rogue council and ensure that accountability.

The original FOIA requests were generated as part of the plaintiffs’ ongoing oversight of Western Pacific federal and state water ocean resource conservation issues involving the restoration and protection of the Western Pacific Ocean environment and the people who reside in the region. NOAA and the Department of Commerce are defendants because they have refused to exercise their oversight responsibilities with respect to WESPAC to help plaintiffs get the documents.  “NOAA’s support of citizen groups seeking access to public records from WESPAC is crucial if we are to end overfishing and ensure science-based management.” said Marjorie Ziegler, Executive Director of Conservation Council for Hawai`i. “WESPAC is controlled by commercial fishing interests, and therefore strict NOAA oversight is critical.  Ending overfishing and allowing the fish stocks to recover will benefit all of Hawai’i’s fishers, fishing communities, our endangered monk seal, threatened seabirds and our beloved honu [green sea turtles].”

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) is one of eight regional councils established under the U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Recovery Act to manage the nation’s offshore marine resources.

Link to White House Statement

Link to Complaint

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