Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Thoughts on the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

For those who haven't been following the important debate over the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, you can catch up by
Clicking Here and then Clicking Here.

The issue isn't going away and we always welcome new view points on the issue. Today we get Brian Funai, a noted Hawaiian angler, outdoor writer, fishing historian, and tackle collector. I thought it might be nice to get a few thoughts from someone who is (likely) more immediately affected by the IOPTC than many of us. Here are his comments:

I appreciate the President’s recognition that the health of our nation’s ocean’s coasts and Great Lakes should be addressed and that he sees the importance of creating an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. Many in Hawaii have been seeking our own State of Hawaii Government to formalize a similar interagency task force to effectively manage our coastal and ocean resources. Many of us see the failure to address critical interlocking land and sea issues because agencies cannot coordinate or work together, resulting in the resource being neglected and in most cases, the resource user being ultimately blamed for its demise.

However, there are important cautions that need to be recognized before deciding on a single national policy. For example: the State of Hawaii, territories of Guam and American Samoa and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are island communities and as such, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean (and on one side by the Philippine Sea in the case of the CNMI). As islands we do not have a continental shelf as those of the U.S. Mainland coastal states, nor do we have anadromous fish crossing some inland state lines, an important difference when considering a national policy. The states, territories and commonwealth have jurisdiction of the coast to 3 miles and the federal government, 3-200 miles. This distinction requires a set of policies unique to these island areas. Additionally, it is important to recognize that some of these island areas are at different stages of economic development and deserve some latitude before hard and fast national rules are established. Without such consideration, it would be detrimental to their economic stability and well-being of its populace.

In short, one size does not fit all. This was recognized by congress when eight regional fishery management councils were established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act. A regionally focused approach that is considerate of the various natural, environmental, cultural, economic and political uniqueness of each region within our nation, that also allows a public input process, must be the cornerstone in the development of fair and equitable national ocean policy.

Of utmost concern is that this effort mirrors the type of tactics that we here in the Islands have seen before all too often. Those who do not want fishing and eating seafood to continue as a part of our Island culture and lifestyle have used it mostly with failure, due to the determination of our local fishermen, but with a single victory in establishing one of the largest no-fishing zones in the country – the North West Hawaiian Islands. By circumventing the public process and going directly through the Executive Branch, a naturally isolated and protected fishing area was taken away from use by our State residents with the stroke of a Presidential pen, deaf to the many calls for consideration of what people here in this State considered important. This effort to centralize management and again take away the input of the citizens is not warmly embraced and people here are strongly objecting to having yet more say in the management of our fisheries taken away.

Brian F. Funai
Kaneohe, Hawaii

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Dave Pfeiffer, President of North American Shimano, writes to tell us that we are having a positive effect. "It seems all of the press that is out on the Ocean’s Policy Task Force and resulting letters is working," he writes, "at least it is causing a stir in the halls of Washington and Congress and many others are demanding answers from the Obama Administration on what is going on with this, what’s behind it, etc." Pressure from anglers like you and me have even gotten the NOAA to admit that the erred by not including the recreational fishing community a seat at the table for discussions and promised to rectify it. We'll be ever vigilant to make sure they follow through on this pledge. Dave further writes that he has a big thank you "to all that took the time to write letters. We got some peoples’ attention which was our objective at this point."

So keep up the good work, everyone! Keep writing those letters.

-- Dr. Todd

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