Less people, more refuge recommended
By LESTER CHANG
TGI Staff Writer
LIHU’E — The best way to
preserve coral ecosystems, marine life and birds in Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands is to ban diving and fishing tours, improve government regulations and
create a refuge for marine life, federal and state government officials were
told last night.
The region can also be protected by preserving Hawaiian
archeological sites, creating a 50-mile buffer zone around wildlife refuges and
Those were some of the recommendations residents made
at a meeting at Kaua’i Community College. About 60 people attended.
meeting and five others statewide are being held at the request of President
Clinton, who has asked the heads of the U.S. departments of Commerce and
Interior for a plan to better protect the reef ecosystem.
discussed current and future threats to the region, parts of the region they
want protected, appropriate and inappropriate uses and management
Current threats, residents said, include motorboat operations
and oil spills, commercialization, military hardware, fragmented regulation
systems and overfishing.
Other people voiced concerns that the area could
be overrun by scientists, commercial operations and tourists.
resident Gary Blaich said he’s concerned about foreign fishing vessels in the
Jonathan Hurd, a Hanapepe fisherman, said only permitted boats
should be allowed in the area and that he would turn in those that are
Related to future threats, residents commented about the potential
for mineral mining, overfishing, chemical testing in the region and passing
ships that might carry hazardous waste
They also said there should be a
ban on taking coral and marine life and mineral harvesting,
Lovell-Obtake of Lihu’e said none of the islands or atolls should undergo any
landfilling for development or projects.
On the issue of appropriate uses,
residents said they favored protection of archeological sites, preserving
Hawaiian cultural gathering rights, educational air tours, research on mammals,
fish and birds, and continuation of limited entry of boats into the
Efforts must be made to rebuild the turtle and seal population, said
Linda Paul, a member of the Audubon Society.
The region can remain a
pristine environment through proper management, residents said. They requested
better communication and defined areas of responsibility among regulating
agencies, independent fishing data, an emergency response plan in case of
accidents, a monitoring system on all vessels and a debris-removal plan.
The nine atolls and islands that run from Nihoa Island to Pearl and Hermes
Atoll are protected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, according to Barbara Maxfield, a
representative of the agency.
Kure Atoll, a state wildlife sanctuary,
comes under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Land and Natural
Resources. Enforcement is carried out by the Coast Guard.
Any plan that
comes about from the recommendations should be a model for the rest of the
world, said Rob Culbertson, a representative for the Kaua’i branch of the
Steve Wheeler, a fisherman, disagreed. He said current
management practices work fine.
Others, including Meph Wyeth of Anahola and
Colette Bryce of Kapa’a, said they just want the area to be left alone.
“We love the place,” Wyeth said.
Miki Lee, a facilitator with the
U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, which conducted the
meeting, said the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which stretch 1,000 miles
northwest of Ni’ihau, is special and should be protected because:
contain 70 percent of all coral reefs within the waters of the United
* More than 90 percent of the Hawaiian population of threatened
green sea turtles nest at French Frigate Shoals.
* Most of the highly
endangered Hawaiian monk seals breed and feed in the region.
* The region
is home to more than 7,000 marine species, including marine invertebrates,
algae, sea grasses, fish, sea turtles and mammals.
* There is greater
diversity in reef habitats than the main Hawaiian islands.
recommendations will be reviewed by the U.S. Institute for Environmental
Conflict Resolution in Arizona, and to the departments of Interior and
Commerce, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the Western
Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. The comments then will be sent to
Yesterday’s meeting and the others are sponsored by the fishery
Additional comments can be sent to the Institute for
Environmental Conflict Resolution at www.ecr.gov/nwhi or 110 S. Church Ave.,
suite 3350, Tucson, AZ 85701. They can also be faxed to (520)
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225)