Wespac Book a Costly Effort to Justify `Aha Kiole, `Aha Moku Push

posted in: Fisheries, Marine, November 2012 | 0

Edward Glazier, editor. Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management in the Western Pacific. Published by Wiley-Blackwell and the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, 2011. 280 pages plus 24 pages of color plates. $209.95 hard cover.

In the category of expensive books that few will ever read, this recent publication of the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council ranks high. With a list price of $209.95 – a few dollars less, if you order through Amazon – and a table of contents that is Sominex on a page, Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management in the Western Pacific is never going to make the best-seller list.

Of course, given that it is a volume entirely conceived, written, printed, and distributed with one sole purpose – to justify the council’s push to manage near-shore and on-shore resources – the idea that the book would be a commercial success probably never entered into the picture.

Probably few people outside the council’s immediate circle have heard of or seen the book. It came to my attention only by chance: At this spring’s meeting of the Council Coordination Committee, hosted by Wespac, copies of the volume were stacked next to the table where I was asked to register. When I inquired about the book – “Are these for sale?” I asked – I was told to just take one.

That the book has received little – make that virtually no – attention in scientific publications is hardly surprising. Although a number of respected experts participated in the three council-sponsored workshops that are reported in this volume, the work they presented broke no new ground and consisted largely of summaries of work they had published (or were to publish) elsewhere.

Beyond recapping the experts’ presentations, the book reports on the discussions between the experts in western science and the people in attendance who advocated resource management based on traditional practices. In the end, there seems to have been no meeting of the minds on this score. For example, at the conclusion of the first workshop (on ecosystem science and management), participants came up with recommendations on how to begin to develop ecosystem management plans (as opposed to single-species or suite-of-species plans), all of which were unexceptional. But then Glazier adds a cautionary note that walks back some of them. Among other things, he says, fishery managers should “apply the precautionary principle as a default, but gauge the potential human impacts of doing so.”

What’s more, the reporting verges on fiction – a point Glazier seems to acknowledge. “The summaries [of discussions] are consistently presented in a third-person narrative form so as to minimize use of quotations and redundant shifting between person and tense,” he writes. “Interpretive-artistic license was taken in certain cases with the intent of clarifying points being made by the presenters.”

A New Foundation

In hindsight, the purpose of the workshops, and this volume that commits the proceedings to history, has become clear. Council executive director Kitty Simonds began referring to them early on in her push to get local groups of Hawaiians to assert a role in the state’s management of near-shore fisheries. The first of several puwalu convened in August 2006, just a few months after the second of the three workshops on ecosystem management. The Wespac-sponsored puwalu led eventually to the establishment of `Aha Kiole councils across the state and ultimately to their being enshrined in state law this year as the `Aha Moku advisory committee within the Department of Land and Natural Resources. (For further background on the `Aha Kiole councils, the puwalu, and Wespac’s role in them, see the many articles that Environment Hawai`i has published on this subject.)

In this light, the book gains significance, since it bolsters arguments made by Simonds and others for a greater role for native peoples in managing resources. In fact, in the write-up of the last of the three workshops, on ecosystem policy, Glazier notes that the council has already moved in this direction. At this workshop, he writes, “Council staff members related that the Western Pacific Council had collectively arrived at a vision for the future of the ecosystem approach and that objectives had been developed to satisfy that vision. Those relate primarily to the process for deepening relationships with island communities over the course of time, and to immediate and practical plans for initiating that process. Efforts were currently being undertaken to successfully initiate the [Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committees], which were intended to improve the Council’s understanding of the biophysical and human dimensions of the region’s marine ecosystems and thereby introduce a more effective and empowering management regime.”

And what of the council’s jurisdictional limits? By federal law, it has no say-so in management of waters from shore to three miles out.

Never mind that, Glazier suggests. “It was agreed [at the workshop] that the REAC process could and would allow the Council to consider and address issues extending beyond those it had traditionally considered, such as terrestrially generated pollution and other factors affecting comprehensively envisioned marine ecosystems.”

Patricia Tummons

Volume 23, Number 5 — November 2012

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