Friday, January 12, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 12, 2001

Ocean-policy aide says Bush takes market-based management view

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

President-elect Bush, while governor of Texas, balanced economic and environmental issues when dealing with fisheries and the near-shore coastlines, according to his senior marine policy manager.

If the governor’s administration leaned in one direction, it was for protection of ocean business interests, but environmental concerns were not ignored, said Hal Osburn.

Osburn will speak at the second Hawaii Fisheries and Ocean Users Forum tomorrow at the Ala Moana Hotel. He is the director of the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas’ Parks and Wildlife Department and was the Bush administration’s appointed member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the equivalent of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

"Gov. Bush took a market-based management approach," but one that also took into account to preservation of fisheries and the protection of endangered species, Osburn said in a telephone interview from his Texas office.

He cited three major initiatives of Bush’s tenure as Texas chief executive.

"He signed into law our first three limited-entry fisheries," in which new fishing boats were banned in certain fisheries, and the government has the authority to buy back the licenses of existing fishing craft as their owners voluntarily withdraw from the industry. Osburn said that this provided for a slow attrition that would not suddenly damage the economy of local fishing communities by abrupt reductions in the number of fishing boats.

Moderately slow attrition justified

In the Gulf of Mexico, the involved fisheries were being overfished, but populations of targeted species were strong enough that "we felt like we had the luxury of doing a moderately slow attrition of the fleet," he said.

In a second initiative, the Bush administration developed but did not enact an individually transferable quota system for red snapper fisheries, under which individual fishing boats would be issued quotas based on their historic catch. A particular boat, if it traditionally caught 5 percent of the fish in the fishery, would be allowed to catch 5 percent of the total allowable catch established each season by fishery scientists.

"They would be allowed to catch that amount any time they want — they don’t have to go out in rough weather, and they can wait for better prices before they go out," Osburn said.

In the third fisheries initiative, Texas dealt with the shrimp industry and its catching of endangered sea turtles and other bycatch, Osburn said.

"We had a real complicated debate over shrimp industry needs, endangered species and other bottom fishery impacts," he said. Bush allowed his parks and wildlife officials to negotiate the conflicting positions and develop a compromise which, in part, banned shrimping within five miles of the Padre Island National Seashore during the nesting season of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

Overall, under Bush’s time in Texas, "we’ve been pro fish, but also pro business and pro recreational opportunity," Osburn said.

He will be the keynote speaker, and will expand on his experience under President-elect Bush’s governorship, at the Saturday forum, titled "Restoring Resources and Resolving Conflicts." It is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Garden Lanai Ballroom.

Osburn’s talk is titled "How the Texas ocean management system works, and what Hawaii’s ocean community might expect under a Bush administration."

Bringing ocean users together

The conference is aimed at bringing Hawaiians, marine educators, government officials, environmental groups, fishing interests and other ocean users together to consider issues to be raised before the upcoming session of the Hawaii Legislature.

Among the panel discussion topics are: near-shore management challenges, legal challenges, and solutions. Special presentations include Jeff Polovina of the National Marine Fisheries Service, discussing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands ecosystem, and Paul Dalzell, of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, addressing issues involving fisheries for tuna and other pelagic species in the Central and Western Pacific.

"We are trying to achieve consensus on how our near-shore ocean should be managed," said Mike Markrich, the chairman of Malama Na Ia, a co-sponsor of the event. "The issues surrounding ocean resources are getting more complicated. It is a new era and this is our chance to protect the ocean before it’s too late."

Sponsors include the fisheries council, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College and School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, and American Fisheries Society Hawaii Chapter.

The conference is free and open to the public. Register in advance by fax to Elizabeth Corbin, acting manager of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Ocean Resources Branch, at (808) 587-2777 or e-mail with name, address, telephone, fax, e-mail, and affiliations.

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