Please come to the Wespac back-to-back hearings on bottomfish overfishing and the NWHI sanctuary Tuesday, March 14th, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Ala Moana. For background information to prepare for this hearing, please go to http://www.kahea.org .
Cascadia Times has just released results of an in-depth investigation of Wespac's abuses - full of useful information for the hearings! Over the last week, Wespac has held a series of public meetings across the neighbor islands in an attempt to resurrect its illegal fishing regulations for the possible NWHI sanctuary and pass off an ill-devised plan to curb bottomfish overfishing in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Reports from people who attended some of the public hearings last week are not good. Wespac is misleading the public again!
Wespac staff and paid consultants are telling people there is no public support for protecting the NWHI and that Native Hawaiians want to expand fishing in the NWHI. This isn't true and the five years of uncompromising public support for fully protecting the NWHI is our proof. For example the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs approved a resolution in late 2005 calling on state and federal officials to "permanently and completely prohibit all commercial activities and protect Native Hawaiian cultural, religious, and subsistence practices, and allow only appropriate scientific and educational access to the NWHI Archipelago that would only benefit the cultural and ecological resources of the NWHI Archipelago." For the record, we must tell them again.
Please take just a moment to send a fax to Kitty Simonds, the Executive Director of Wespac, and inform her that she is mistaken. We're providing some new talking points below which you can add to your letter. The fact is the public does support full protection for the NWHI from all commercial activity. Wespac is required to report all the public comments it receives to NOAA officials. Your help is needed: please come to the Wespac council meeting and public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 14 at the Ala Moana Hotel from 6:00-9:00 p.m.
There will be several opportunities to testify at the Wespac public hearing. And the message is clear: the NWHI are too precious to be sacrificed for any fishing or commercial activity.
The first part of the public meeting (based on reports from neighbor islands) is likely to be a presentation of Wespac's "fishery ecosystem plans" relabeled as "Hawaiian science," with a theme of "Permanent Closures: why they don't work." This will be couched as part of a talk about the ahupua`a system by a Wespac consultant. This will likely be followed by a discussion of Wespac's irresponsible plan to control overfishing in the bottomfisheries throughout Hawaiian waters. The hearing will probably conclude with the discussion of Wespac's illegal fishing plan for the proposed NWHI sanctuary.
It will be important to provide public comments for every part of Wespac's presentation. Please go to KAHEA's homepage for background information that you can use for this hearing, including Cascadia Times' new investigative report "Rogues of the Pacific," NWHI hui analysis of Wespac's fishery ecosystem plan, and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Club Resolutions. Go to www.kahea.org , at the top of page, in the Call to Action section.
Part 1: Wespac's Fishery Ecosystem Plan is not real "Hawaiian science"
A. Wespac's Fishery Ecosystem Plan is riddled with mistakes. It does not even properly identify the marine species found in Hawaiian waters.
B. Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, fishers, environmentalists, and scientists have long supported permanently protecting the NWHI from the harms of commercial activities, like fishing, tourism, and bioprospecting.
Part 2: Wespac's plan fails to control bottomfish overfishing throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago
In June 2005, NOAA released data indicating that the Hawaiian Archipelago is in a state of overfishing. NOAA gave Wespac one year to address the problem. Unfortunately, Wespac's remedies for the overfishing focus only on the federal fishing areas in the main Hawaiian islands and completely ignores the vast fishing areas of the NWHI.
Key talking points include:
A. It's time to reject Wespac's illegal plans. Wespac has, again, failed to address overfishing in the NWHI in its bottomfish overfishing plan, which only examines the Main Hawaiian Islands; its proposed plans for the NWHI include the violation of existing protections:
1. An increase in bottomfish permit holders and amount of catch for the NWHI
2. Opening up closed protected areas to fishing
3. Removing caps from the recreational fishery
B. Wespac's inappropriate management recommendations for the federal waters of the Main Hawaiian Islands have been ruinous for local fishers, for our marine ecosystems and for Hawai?i's citizens who value a healthy environment. We call for a federal investigation into the Council's management abuses.
C. Investigative reporting has just uncovered the growing scandal of Wespac's lobbying activities and abuses of federal funds, including extraordinary levels of compensation paid to the Executive Director - equivalent to 1/3 of the value of all NWHI fish catch. These shocking practices must end.
Part 3: Wespac proposes illegal fishing regulations for the proposed NWHI Sanctuary:
Wespac's proposed fishing regulations for the NWHI were rejected by NOAA in October 2005 because they violated the goals and objectives of the proposed sanctuary. Wespac has now simply repackaged the same illegal fishing regulations and is holding new public hearings to justify them.
Wespac's latest round of illegal fishing plans for the NWHI should be rejected because they violate existing protections and are incompatible with the Goals and Objectives of the proposed sanctuary. They would:
-- increase in bottomfish permit holders and amount of catch for the NWHI; potentially introduce up to 66 permits for new pelagic fishers in the NWHI;
-- open up permanently closed protected areas to fishing, even areas protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
-- remove caps from the recreational fishery.
If the NWHI are designated as a sanctuary, then all fishing and all commercial activity should be prohibited within one year of designation.
The federal regulations should commit to at least the same level of protections ensured by the state NWHI refuge regulations, which allow Native Hawaiian cultural access rights and appropriate scientific research, but prohibit all commercial uses and operate under a "do no harm" standard for access, utilizing the precautionary principle.
Wespac's scandalous reign over the NWHI must come to an end! An explosive, new investigative report on Wespac reveals the history of wasted federal funds and violations of federal law. The report, available at www.times.org , details the facts:
-- Wespac spends 25% of all federal fisheries funds to manage 2% of all federal fisheries.
-- Executive Director Kitty Simonds' salary is $187,469, which is equivalent to almost 1/3 of the revenue from all NWHI fisheries.
-- Simond?s salary is higher than the salaries of the Secretary of Commerce, Vice Admiral Lautenbacher (NOAA), and Gov. Lingle. In fact, it?s hard to find public officials with higher salaries than Wespac?s Executive Director.
-- In addition to her annual salary, Simonds also receives a $20,000 "profit sharing" bonus. It is not clear what profits this federally funded official is entitled to.
-- Federal officials are concerned that Wespac has misspent funds allocated to protect coral reefs.
-- Wespac has used federal funds to: - misinform the public about federal conservation efforts, to battle conservation efforts - lobby Hawaii state legislature to pass bills to prevent marine conservation - misrepresent monk seal research results - push for fishing in closed waters of the NWHI
-- Wespac officials have repeatedly violated federal fishing laws and are still allowed to serve on the Council.
-- Local fishers have called for a federal investigation of Wespac by the Commerce Department's Inspector General given Wespac's "pattern of improper and dishonest conduct."
Wespac has done a serious disservice to Hawai?i and Hawai?i's fishers. The bottomfish fishing grounds under Wespac's control peaked in 1987 and only now, after NOAA has declared a state of overfishing, has Wespac begun to consider managing its fisheries for overfishing, and then only in the Main Hawaiian Islands. Since the late 1970's, Wespac has allowed Hawai?i's fisheries to be overrun and depleted beyond recovery. As a result, the overall health of our fishery stocks, our coral reefs, and our rare and endangered species has been compromised.
The NWHI must be protected precisely because it is one of the last places on earth that has a chance to thrive as a fully functional, intact ecosystem.
Mahalo nui loa to all who have already sent their message for full protection to Wespac, and especially to those who were able to attend the Wespac hearings last week.
We have one more chance to make our voices heard on Tuesday, March 14, 2006, 6:00-9:00 pm at the Ala Moana Hotel. Please attend and testify, if possible. And send a message to Wespac unequivocally demanding full protections for the NWHI.
Kitty Simonds, Executive Director Wespac, 1164 Bishop Street, Room 1400, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96813
Cross-posted to abouthawaii, hawaiilokahi, and to hawaiinokaoi