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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 3, 2006

Pew trust gives up on fishermen buyouts

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Pew Charitable Trusts, which had offered to compensate commercial fishing interests in return for retiring their licenses to fish the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, has ended its efforts, saying it could not interest enough of the fishers.

The Pew proposal was part of the package of proposals announced as part of President Bush's establishment in June 2006 of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. While the monument language calls for all commercial fishing licenses to expire after five years in 2011 Pew proposed moving up the timetable by buying anglers' licenses.

Eight fishing boats are licensed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to participate in the bottomfish fishery of the islands of the monument, which covers a swath of ocean and small islands and reefs running from beyond Kaua'i to Kure Atoll, a distance of about 1,100 miles.

Pew, in a statement yesterday, said that while there were initial expressions of interest in buyouts, only two of the licensed fishing interests responded to repeated efforts to establish negotiations. Pew had hoped for the participation of "a significant number" of the anglers before proceeding.

"Pew first raised the possibility of putting together a compensation package for the remaining permit holders in early 2005 in discussions with government officials, members of Hawai'i's congressional delegation, fishermen, native Hawaiian groups and others," the trust said in a press release.

While some interests suggested the organization drop its negotiation proposal after the monument was created with a five-year deadline to end fishing, Pew said it continued trying, to stand by its commitment given before the monument's establishment.

"We also felt that the ecosystem would benefit from an immediate halt in all fishing activity, rather than having to wait five years," said Jay Nelson, Pew project manager for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Initiative.

The effort to buy the licenses and retire them was a project of the Environment Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Said Joshua Reichert, the group's director: "We would have liked to have begun the restoration of this ecosystem immediately, and to have helped support a fair transition for the remaining fishermen. Yet there is little we can do if the existing permit holders are unwilling to participate in this process with us."

Mark Mitsuyasu, a spokesman for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which has advocated continued regulated fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, said the agency did not participate in the negotiation between Pew and the anglers.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.