New & Noteworthy: Perishable Ho`okupu, Scientists Walk Out

posted in: May 2018 | 0
An array of rotting fruit on the lele in silversword reserve.

Maunakea Silverswords: At some time in late March or early April, the gate leading into the silversword reserve near Hale Pohaku, on Maunakea, was not just damaged, but completely removed by vandals, as revealed on a visit in early April.

That same visit also revealed the presence of fresh fruits (including apples and oranges), muffins, and other perishable ho‘okupu, or offerings, at a lele, a kind of altar, erected inside the reserve.

After inquiries were made to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which set aside the reserve for the endangered plants, the gate was replaced. As to the perishable ho‘okupu, a spokesperson for the DLNR stated that the agency had no knowledge who might have erected the lele.

The presence of fresh foods at the lele, 9,000 feet or so up the slopes of Maunakea, raises the prospect that ants, vermin, or diseases of plants could be introduced into an area where none now exist.

Stephanie Nagata, director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management, said that even though the reserve “is not our property, our rangers will monitor and remove perishable items, such as food matters,” adding: “We plan on meeting with DLNR to discuss this and other matters.”

Scientists Walk: The group of scientific experts chosen to advise the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service on marine mammal issues in the Pacific region, which includes Hawai‘i, has practically gutted itself. In a December 29, 2017, letter to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Karin Forney, Pacific Scientific Review Group chair Michael Scott announced his resignation, as well as those of group members Hannah Bernard (of the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund), Steve Jeffries of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kathy Ralls of the Smithsonian Institution, and Terry Wright (retired). Their resignations follow those of original SRG member Doyle Hanan of Hanan & Associates, Inc., and Robin Brown of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

That left Tim Ragen (formerly of the Marine Mammal Commission), John Clambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective, Hawai‘i-based fisheries consultant David Itano, and Scott Baker of Oregon State Uni- versity, who have since been joined by Simone Baumann-Pickering of Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Rebecca Lewison of San Diego State University.

The departures were largely the result of a change in policy by NMFS to rotate group membership. Rather than being allowed to stay on for decades, as some members had, NMFS’s new Terms of Reference limit each member’s term to three years. Members can serve three consecutive terms at a time and can be reappointed again afterward following a year-long break.

“We understand that NMFS plans to replace Doyle Hanan, an original member of the Pacific SRG. While we realize that the NMFS architects of the recent Terms of Reference view this differently, those of us who have voluntarily served on the Pacific SRG since its inception regard this as essentially being fired after 23 years of providing advice to NMFS. Doyle Hanan, like Robin Brown earlier this year, preferred to resign rather than be fired…. The Pacific SRG regards the NMFS decision as capricious. For the sake of turnover, NMFS is sacrificing long-time SRG experience, it is creating gaping holes in the group’s expertise in pinnipeds and west coast fisheries, and it is ignoring the judgment of the SRG itself about the expertise it needs. …

“The Pacific SRG has always argued that a 3-year term limit is too short to navigate the PBR process, to absorb all the issues before us, and to be able to knowledgeably review the Stock Assessment Reports for over 60 stocks that include pinnipeds, dolphins, and large whales,” Scott wrote.

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