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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 14, 2002

Marine sanctuary hearing tense

By Susan Roth
Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — The simmering conflict between environmentalists and the fishermen of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council resurfaced in a Washington, D.C., hearing on the marine sanctuary proposed for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Roundtable meetings

• 6 p.m. tomorrow in the Manoa Room of the Japanese Cultural Center in Honolulu.

• 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Jasmine Ballroom of the Radisson Kaua'i Beach Resort in Nukoli'i.

• 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Marine Science Building at the University of Hawai'i-Hilo.

• 6 p.m. Thursday in the Kamakahonu Ballroom of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.

• 6 p.m. Friday at the Lana'i Public Library in Lana'i City.

• Send comments to:

    Northwestern Hawaiian Island Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve
    Proposed NWHI National Marine Sanctuary
    6700 Kalaniana'ole Highway
    Suite 215
    Honolulu, HI 96825.

• e-mail: nwhi@noaa.gov

Just before President Clinton left office last year, he ordered the creation of the sanctuary around a chain of small atolls and reefs spanning more than 1,200 nautical miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands. The island chain, now part of an ecosystem reserve, is surrounded by some of the most extensive and untouched coral reefs in U.S. waters.

Clinton's executive order riled Hawai'i's fishermen because it severely restricts fishing in the area. Federal officials planning the transition from reserve to the more protected status of sanctuary say they plan to work with the fishery management council.

But council members remain wary, fearing that decisions will be made on the basis of emotion and environmentalists' demands, rather than on what they describe as a scientific basis allowing for fishing along with the preservation of resources. Environmentalists, meanwhile, have attacked the council's management of the area.

At Thursday's hearing, Honolulu attorney and fishery council member Bryan Ho told federal officials that the fishing industry groups want a continuation of "sustainable, well-managed commercial fisheries" in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as well as an advisory council that incorporates "science-based resources management procedures" rather than being "dominated by citizen participation."

David Guggenheim of the Washington-based Ocean Conservancy urged that the new sanctuary advisory council be a "citizen-based group that provides public input."

Judy Lang of the Sierra Club requested that permits for existing fisheries be restricted to present levels. Lang also requested that areas near the islands be closed to all other commercial activity.

John Sibert, program manager of the Pelagic Fisheries Research Program at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, urged federal officials to look closely at the council's Coral Reef Ecosystem Fishery Management Plan, which it approved in June.

"We don't have to reinvent this wheel," Sibert said. But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some provisions of the plan appear to conflict with the management regime for the reserve.

Last week's hearing was part of a series of 10 public meetings on the proposal scheduled through this week. Public comments, which can be sent to NOAA until May 17, will be incorporated into a management plan and environmental impact statement.