NEW & NOTEWORTHY: Sandalwood, Sharks, and Sewage

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Sandalwood at CITES? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to submit a proposal to add all varieties of Hawaiian sandalwood to the CITES Appendix II list, which includes species that may not now be threatened with extinction but which may become so unless trade in them is controlled. The proposal would be among several that the United States submits at the next regular meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Thailand next March.

In the April 11 Federal Register, the FWS invited comments on the proposals it had received for 92 specific taxa and two general groups (Asian freshwater turtles and six species of Hawaiian sandalwood). For Hawaiian sandalwood and 29 other species or groups of species of plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, the Federal Register notice stated, the FWS was undecided whether to forward the proposals to CITES. For the remainder of species for which proposals were received, the notice goes on to state, the FWS is not likely to nominate them for CITES listing “unless we receive significant additional information indicating that a proposal is warranted.”

The sandalwood proposal was put forward by United Plant Savers, a Vermont-based group that works to save species of plants with traditional and medicinal value. Recent reports of international trade in Hawaiian mountain sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum), the group stated in its proposal, raise “growing concern that unregulated international trade could affect wild populations.” United Plant Savers is also assisting in the organization of a conference on sandalwood to be held October 21-24 at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

And Whitetip Sharks, Too: Among the other species that the Fish and Wildlife Service is undecided on is the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), proposed for inclusion in either Appendix II or the more restrictive Appendix I, which generally prohibits international trade in the listed species. This shark was proposed for CITES listing in 2010, but was not approved then.

The International Union for the Conservation of Species (IUCN) has red-listed the oceanic whitetip shark as vulnerable since 2006. As noted in the article (in this issue) on the recent meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the shark will enjoy some protections in the Pacific Ocean after January 1, 2013. Other regional fishery management organizations have already granted it protections elsewhere.

Stop the Seep! Earthjustice has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against Maui County on behalf of four environmental groups seeking proper regulation of the discharge of wastewater from injection wells at Lahaina into the sea.

As Environment Hawai`i reported in February, recent results of tracer dye studies conducted by the EPA seem to confirm that wastewater injected into wells at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility reaches the sea via freshwater seeps offshore of Kahekili Beach.

Because the county has neither applied for nor received a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES) to discharge wastewater into the ocean, the groups ask the court to find that the county has violated and is violating the Clean Water Act. They seek fines (up to $37,500 per day per violation) and an order forcing the county to secure a NPDES permit for the injection wells.

David Albright, manager of the groundwater and underground injection control program for the EPA’s Region IX in San Francisco, said earlier this year that it was too soon to determine whether the dye test results were enough to trigger a NPDES permit. He noted that preliminary monitoring results for pollutants at the seeps showed no sign of bacterial indicators, possibly because the county increased the chlorination of its wastewater last October.

As of last month, Albright had nothing new to report regarding test results, according to Dean Higuchi, EPA’s press officer in Honolulu.

“While disinfection is a step in the right direction, it won’t remove nitrogen and phosphorous from the wastewater, so it won’t get rid of the harmful algae growth at Kahekili,” Hannah Bernard of Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund said in a press release. The Hawai`i Wildife Fund, together with the Surfrider Foundation-Maui Chapter, West Maui Preservation Association, and the Sierra Club-Maui Group filed the complaint against the county.

Volume 22, Number 11 May 2012

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