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News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.

News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at: kahea-alliance@hawaii.rr.com.

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!

Evan in Honolulu Advertiser: concerns persist over NWHI plan!

Evan is our rock star summer intern here at KAHEA, a UH Law Student, and Fellow with the Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law. He has spent much of the last month combing the 1,200 page draft plan for the future of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands–some of the last intact Hawaiian coral reef on the planet. He has been working along with experts in resource management, science and cultural practice to review, analyze and develop our detailed comments on the draft plan.

From his commentary in the Honolulu Advertiser:

After a two-year multi-agency effort, the public had only 75 days to muster up comments on the four-volume draft. Tomorrow is the deadline [the deadline was recently extended 15 days to July 23] thus far, we have simply not heard from the people.

Among the greatest concerns in the current draft is the abandonment of the “precautionary principle,” which requires biological, cultural and historic resource protection and integrity to be favored when there is a lack of information regarding the potential impacts of any activity.

After the public spoke clearly about their desire to maintain this fragile ocean wilderness as a pu’uhonua (forever sanctuary), this principle was firmly embedded into the presidential proclamation that established the monument.

Instead, this “do no harm” mandate was watered down and replaced with research plans of a questionable nature and vamped-up visitor plans. Even more important, the people have been stripped from the process.

The draft plan fails to mention retaining a public oversight committee. The Reserve Advisory Council played a pivotal role in providing public oversight in the creation of the monument, yet any similar entity has been eliminated.

Other areas where notable improvements can be made include: the need for Native Hawaiian involvement in the leadership and management of the monument; revisions to the permitting process, including renewal and enforcement; prioritizing research around critical conservation needs; the absence of an effective cumulative impact analysis, excessive ecotourism and visitor plans on Midway; and an incomplete and largely unsubstantiated cultural impact assessment.

With time running out, I urge you to visit www.kahea.org to see some of the major concerns that have been outlined by citizens, scientists, environmental advocates and Native Hawaiians who have been diligently parsing the draft proposal.

15 more days to speak up for some of Hawai`i's last intact coral reefs!

Posted by kahea at Jul 08, 2008 01:04 AM |

Thanks to your strong requests for additional time, government managers have granted an extra 15-days for public comment–moving the final deadline for comments to July 23. It ain’t much, but it is something.

If you’re a member of the KAHEA Action Alert Network, you’ve been seeing alerts on protecting the future of the pristine coral reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (also known as the NWHI)… for about a month now.

We’re taking our extra 15 days, and along with thousands of others around the world, we’re asking for a better, stronger management plan. This plan spells out how the NWHI will be protected for the next 15 years.

So we’ll say it again! Without a better plan, we will be opening the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to :
- Expanded military activities with NO mitigations
- Increased extractive research with NO protection from bioprospecting
- Increased development footprint, and more construction
- Increased vessel traffic
- Cruise ships and increases in permitted tourism

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!

Hawaii County Council Passes Reso on DU: Clean 'em up first!

Mahalo to friends/activists on the Big Island! Ho‘omaika‘i ia! And thanks to everyone who submitted testimony and responded to action alerts–the resolution on depleted uranium passed without bad amendments–you helped make it happen!

From West Hawaii Today:

The council approved a resolution from Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole that requests the U.S. Army to halt B-2 bombing missions and live firing exercises until it’s determined whether depleted uranium is present at the Pohakuloa Training Area.

Although the resolution does not carry the power of law, the council spent more than six hours Wednesday discussing it and listening to testimony from numerous residents in favor of it.

The council heard from Dr. Lorrin Pang with the state Department of Health who, speaking as a resident, painted a grim picture regarding the lack of information there is on DU levels on the island and the circumstantial evidence that depleted uranium may be responsible for a spike in new cancer cases.

From 2000 through 2004, Pang said 444 new cancer cases were reported on the Big Island, which is more than new cases from the other Hawaiian Islands.

A majority of the county’s new cancer cases were from Kona, where dust originating from PTA usually ends up because of wind, he said. “It is prudent a survey be done to put to rest our uncertainty about (the military’s) record-keeping,” Pang said. “Something’s cooking here on Big Island.”

Depleted uranium was discovered at PTA in 2006, which originated from spotting rounds in Davy Crockett weapons systems tested in the 1960s.

The council approved a few amendments to the resolution, including one from Ka’u Councilman Bob Jacobson that states the “U.S. military shall conduct a search of all records for firing of depleted uranium at (PTA) and all other Hawaii state military sites and release pertinent information to the public.”

An amendment from Council Chairman Pete Hoffmann, Kohala, to remove language in the resolution that requests the military to halt bombing missions and live firing exercises was defeated in an 8-1 vote, with Hoffmann the only one to cast a favorable vote. Hoffmann, who served in the military for more than 28 years, said he agrees the country should not be in Iraq, but because that is the case, the request in question would lead to inadequate training.

Other council members said the Army should find a different place to train until it’s determined if depleted uranium is causing problems for residents and military personnel.

Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong said the council’s favorable vote puts the military on notice “that you have to investigate.”

Army Col. Howard Killian told the council the military plans to have a citizen monitoring committee in place by the end of the month. South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford plans to introduce a resolution that requests Pang is placed on the committee as the council’s representative.


photo: The Davy Crockett Atomic Battle Group Delivery System fired on the Big Island (island breath post)


NWHI Marine Monument Hearings on Oahu TV

From our buddy Oren, who helped us get this public hearing documented and on air:

The video taping 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 will be aired on ‘Olelo Community Television on ch. 52 as well as on its internet website olelo.net–which simultaneously streams ch. 52.

7/3/08 Thu 1:00 pm
7/10/08 Wed Midnight
7/17/08 Wed Midnight
7/24/08 Thu 1:00 pm

In a few days we maybe able to get it on the internet for anyone to watch at any time.

I’d like to thank especially Bill Sager, John Isagawa, Dave Gonzales, Rob Kinslow and the peoples’ at ‘Olelo Community Television —with a lot of their efforts—-, all of whom, who helped to tape this thing together.


WANTED: Critical Habitat for Monk Seal

hawaiian monk seals

KAHEA, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Ocean Conservancy, filed a formal petition yesterday, seeking to have beaches and surrounding waters on the main Hawaiian islands designated as critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals under the Endangered Species Act.

Under the Endangered Species Act, critical habitat identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations.

Recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as species without it. Currently, the species has critical habitat designated only on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Since the 1950s its population has dropped to about 1,300 animals and is continuing to decline. Scientists estimate populations will likely drop below 1,000 seals within a few years.

Monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are dying of starvation, emaciated and weak, scientists have found. Pups have only about a one-in-five chance of surviving to adulthood. Other threats include drowning in abandoned fishing gear, shark predation, and disease.

Hawaiian monk seals are increasingly populating the main islands, where they are giving birth to healthy pups. For the past decade, the number of Hawaiian monk seal births has increased each year on the main islands, and the population of seals is growing steadily; the seals are in better condition than those in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This indicates more food availability and a better chance of survival.

Global warming is also a threat to the survival of Hawaiian monk seals. Already, the conservation groups warn, important pupping beaches have been lost due to sea-level rise and erosion, and the northwestern islands will eventually disappear under predicted levels of sea-level rise since they are elevated only a few meters above sea level. The higher-elevation main islands are less vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Hawaiian monk seals are one of three species of monk seals. The Mediterranean monk seal is also critically endangered, while the Caribbean monk seal, which has not been seen in half a century, was declared extinct in June.

The Endangered Species Act requires that the government respond to this petition within 90 days.

Say NY Times and Star Bulletin: Navy should comply with Environmental Laws

bush no like whales.

(graphic from abcnews.com)

The Supreme Court has taken up the question of whether the Bush Administration can exempt the Navy from laws protecting marine mammals from sonar, and media is chiming in. Both the New York Times and Star Bulletin have come out recently in favor of upholding environmental law when it comes to Navy training exercises.

From Op-Ed in today’s New York Times:

Environmentalists have long claimed that the Navy’s use of sonar for training exercises unduly threatens whales, dolphins and other acoustically sensitive marine creatures. The Navy has adopted some procedures to mitigate the risk but has resisted stronger protections ordered by two federal courts. The Supreme Court has now agreed to address the issue.sonar diagram

The justices will not try to determine the extent of harm but rather the balance of power between the executive branch and the courts in resolving such issues. In an effort to sidestep the courts, the Bush administration invoked national security to exempt the Navy from strict adherence to the two federal environmental laws that underlay the court decisions. The top court will now have to decide whether the military and the White House should be granted great deference when they declare that national security trumps environmental protection or whether the courts have a role in second-guessing military judgments and claims of fact.

The case at hand was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other conservation groups to rein in Navy training exercises that use sonar to search for submarines off the coast of Southern California. The Navy says that its exercises pose little threat to marine life and that the training is vital to national security.

A federal district judge and a federal appeals court in California, after careful reviews of the facts, have found that the Navy’s arguments are largely hollow. Although the Navy likes to boast that there has never been a documented case of a whale death in 40 years of training, that may be mostly because no one has looked very hard. The Navy itself estimates that the current series of drills, conducted over two years, might permanently injure hundreds of whales and significantly disrupt the behavior of some 170,000 marine mammals.

No one has questioned that sonar training is vital to national security, and the federal courts have not tried to ban the training. They have simply tried to impose tough measures to minimize damage. The Navy objected to two proposed restrictions in particular — that it shut off its sonar when marine mammals are detected within 2,200 yards and power down its sonar under sea conditions that carry sound farther than normal.

High-ranking officers said these restrictions would cripple the Navy’s ability to train and certify strike groups as ready for combat. The appeals court, mining the Navy’s own reports of previous exercises, disagreed. It said the Navy, following earlier procedures, had already been shutting down sonars with little impact on training or certification.

It seems telling that the Navy has accepted the 2,200-yard safety zone for other sonar exercises. NATO requires the same zone, and the Australian Navy mandates a shutdown if a marine mammal is detected within 4,000 yards.

The federal courts have played a valuable role in deflating exaggerated claims of national security. Let us hope that the Supreme Court backs them up.

And, from our own Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

The Navy’s application for a new permit for sonar training exercises in Hawaii waters could be the last time it will need to go through the process, depending on a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Should the court agree with the Bush administration’s assertion that it has the authority to override laws that protect the environment and marine mammals, the Navy would no longer be required to seek the permits designed to minimize harm to ocean species.

The court is not expected to focus on a continuing dispute between the Navy and environmental organizations about the level of injury sonar causes to marine mammals.

Instead, justices will decide whether the administration, with the support of the military, can set aside enforcement of well-established law. The administration argues that protective conditions put in place by federal courts jeopardize “the Navy’s ability to train sailors and marines for wartime deployment.”

The claim is belied by the fact that the Navy has been able to conduct training while mitigating harm.

The case involves naval exercises off the Southern California cast in which a federal judge restricted mid-frequency sonar use and required it to be shut down when a marine mammal is sighted within 6,000 feet. In a similar ruling in Hawaii, federal Judge David Ezra established several guidelines, putting the range at 5,000 feet. The different requirements have frustrated the Navy, but they are due to variations in coastal waters and marine mammal populations.

While the California case was proceeding through the appeals court, President Bush exempted the Navy from the Coastal Zone Management Act. At the same time, an executive branch agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, granted an exemption of the National Environmental Policy Act, claiming an emergency situation. The Defense Department has previously claimed an exception for “military readiness activity,” as allowed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Through these laws, environmental groups have been successful in establishing restrictions, showing evidence that sonar soundings have injured or led to the deaths of whales. Navy studies have shown probable harm, disturbance or death to 175,000 marine mammals. The Navy also says only 37 whales have died from sonar since 1996, but that doesn’t mean that other haven’t been killed without their carcasses being found.

2006 mozambique dolphin stranding

(Photo: 2006 dolphin stranding, Mozambique.)

The administration’s crafty argument, however, is aimed at defining the scope of executive authority, which might be a gamble because the court has not been sympathetic to Bush’s attempts to stretch presidential power.

A ruling will have implications in Hawaii, where the Navy’s permit for sonar exercises will expire in January. Until the court’s decision in its next term, the public has an opportunity to weigh in with the argument that training can be conducted effectively while reducing the risk of harm to animals in the sea.

monk seal


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