Tuesday, February 6, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Sea study commission needs Isle perspective

Hawaii is fortunate to play host this week to a new private group that hopes to be a major player in formulating national policy on ocean and marine issues.

The group is the Pew Oceans Commission, funded by the respected Pew Trust. Scientists, business leaders, fishermen, environmentalists and others will spend several days with their local counterparts discussing marine problems facing the Islands.

This is the group’s first meeting. By next year, it hopes to have a report ready for Congress as it considers national marine and oceans policy issues.

While Congress has appointed a similar commission to look at a broad range of ocean issues, the Pew Oceans Commission will focus more narrowly on fish and wildlife.

Hawaii is the perfect place for such research. Recent controversies around overfishing and protection of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands have brought into sharp focus the complexities of balancing environmental and commercial interests.

Added to that is a third complexity: the need to take into account traditional Native Hawaiian rights and practices.

The public is invited to speak to the commission from 1 to 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Renaissance Wailea Hotel on Maui. It will get an earful.

While there are problems and solutions that take on a nationwide, or federal, cast, there are also issues unique to individual jurisdictions. That is particularly true in isolated, water-bound Hawaii.

So as this commission works toward a recommendation on national policy, it must remain aware that not all issues can, or should, be federalized. If the group leaves the Islands with that message alone, the trip will have been worthwhile.

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