Polhemus' ouster as state Aquatics Resources administrator questioned
By Carolyn Lucas
West Hawaii Today
Dan Polhemus is no longer the Division of Aquatic Resources administrator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. His removal left West Hawaii environmentalists and the fishing community stunned, confused and angered.
"I can confirm that last Friday, March 19, I was relieved of my duties as the administrator of the DAR. Because I am still in the employ of the state, albeit on administrative leave, until the end of the month, I will wait until after March 31 before making any broader statements, so as to avoid any potential consequences," Polhemus said.
"Needless to say, I disagree with the action taken. Reference to recent Hawaii Fishing News articles will provide background on what led up to all this. It is worth noting that I have two internal complaints currently outstanding against the chairperson for violations of state law in regard to my previous suspension over the East Maui water issues."
DLNR Chairwoman Laura Thielen did not return messages left at her office, as of press time yesterday.
Those who called West Hawaii Today about Polhemus' unexpected departure wished to remain anonymous in fear of retribution. They questioned why Polhemus was put on administrative leave, as well as who and how long will it take to replace him. Also in question was the impact of the change for fisheries management, aquatic species and habitat protection and proposed legislation.
West Hawaii Fisheries Council President Glennon Gingo said he was shocked upon learning of Polhemus' removal. He said Polhemus was "always supportive" of the community-based marine advisory organization and its mission.
"He did a good job in keeping an open line of communication between DLNR, the governor's office and the fisheries council," Gingo said. "He also helped the fisheries council's latest proposed rule package, which took more than six years to develop, to advance to where it eventually will be considered in public hearings sometime this year."
That package includes allowing flexibility in closing areas in response to public concerns while opening up a similarly sized space to maintain the mandated proportion of reserves, establishing a Limited Entry Aquarium Program and adopting a list of 25 species that aquarium collectors may harvest.
In the February edition of Hawaii Fishing News, reporter Carroll Cox chronicled "questionable acts" and actions allegedly taken by Thielen surrounding the East Maui watershed, as well as the development of state Commission on Water Resource Management's plan and a meeting at which Polhemus testified. Polhemus' division had surveyed the streams and submitted reports on their biology and restoration needs.
The article claimed Polhemus was charged by Thielen with not meeting employment goals, and failure to provide studies and data for stream flow. He was suspended for 10 days.
Polhemus was named the division's administrator in 2005, when then DLNR Chairman Peter Young said, "Polhemus is highly regarded both within and outside Hawaii for his excellence as a researcher on freshwater and marine aquatic ecosystems."