New & Noteworthy

Humpback Delisting Petition: A newly formed association claiming to represent Hawai`i fishermen wants to remove the North Pacific population of humpback whales from the federal list of endangered species.The group, calling itself Hawai`i Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc. (HFACT), was formed just a few weeks before it filed the petition in April. Signing its corporation papers filed with the state were two individuals with strong ties to the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council: Roy Morioka, a former council member who has also served as a paid consultant to the council; and Ed Watamura, chairman of the council’s advisory panel.

The president of HFACT, Phil Fernandez, vigorously denies any association with Wespac, however. He told Environment Hawai`i that the group coalesced over the course of several years as fishermen with common interests continued to meet at various hearings and conferences. Until recently, Fernandez represented fishing interests on the Hawai`i Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s advisory council. Today, Fernandez still serves on that panel as an alternate.

Fernandez stated that he was aware that the National Marine Fisheries Service had already begun a global review of the status of humpback whales several years ago. “One of the reasons why we did this, was to require them to finish their global review,” he said. “They’ve been dragging their feet; this [petition] is a legal way to put their feet to the fire.”

John Calambokidis of the Cascadia Research Institute and principal author of a 2008 definitive study of Pacific humpback whales said he had looked over the petition. There are “good signs of recovery for humpback whales, especially those in the Central Eastern Pacific, those that breed in Hawai`i and some of their feeding areas,” he noted. “If there was one area that concerned me, and where I think they missed an important aspect of our studies, it’s that there is a very defined structure of populations in the North Pacific, not just one intermixing group.

“The petition would have been stronger if they had focused on recognizing as a distinct population segment the Hawai`i humpback whales, where there’s the strongest evidence of recovery. They didn’t do that. They talk about the North Pacific as a whole. Unfortunately, that’s what would make it harder for me to view the petition as favorably as if they had focused on the segment of the population that we know is doing well.”

The petition may be viewed online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/petitions.htm

TMT Permit Is Appealed: At the 11th hour and practically the 59th minute, the petitioners in the contested case hearing over a Conservation District Use Permit for the Thirty-Meter Telescope appealed the award of the permit to the 3rd Circuit Court. The state Board of Land and Natural Resources had approved the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decision and order of the hearing officer on April 12. On the final day in which an appeal could be filed — May 10 – and in the final hour — at 4:01 p.m. – the petitioners lodged their notice of appeal and the statement of their case.

The appeal rehashes many of the same claims that were put forward in the contested case hearing and dismissed by the hearing officer: that the telescope will harm underground aquifers and damage historic sites, that it entails an illegal subdivision of Conservation District land, that the construction of the telescope, practically at the summit of Mauna Kea, will violate the Coastal Zone Management Act by increasing the risk of water pollution, will lead to “multi-generational trauma upon the health of native Hawaiians,” violates the religious freedoms of Native Hawaiians, and so on.

Representing the petitioners – KAHEA: the Hawaiian Environmental Alliance; Mauna Kea Anaina Hou; Clarence Kukauakahi Ching; the Flores-Case `Ohana; Deborah J. Ward; and Paul K. Neves – is Richard Wurdeman, who once served as corporation counsel to Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi and Big Island Mayor Steve Yamashiro.

Volume 23, Number 12 — June 2013

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