Last March, Gov. David Ige submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service a list of nominees for upcoming at-large vacancies on the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac).
“All the nominees have knowledge of or experience in the conservation and management of marine resources, commercial or recreational harvest of fishery resources, or habitat and ecosystem approaches to resource management,” Ige wrote in his letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s assistant administrator for fisheries. He added: “My list reflects qualified women and minority candidates.”
The nominees were, in order of priority: Shaelene Kamaka‘ala; Sol Kaho‘ohalahala; Matthew Ramsey; and Kawika Winter.
None was appointed.
Yet all are seemingly qualified.
Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that established the eight regional fishery management councils – of which Wespac is one – gubernatorial nominees must be individuals who, “by reason of their occupational or other experience, scientific expertise, or training, are knowledgeable regarding the conservation and management, or the commercial or recreational harvest, of the fishery resources of the geographical area concerned.”
Kamaka‘ala comes from a family of subsistence fishers. In his nomination package, Ige notes that she has “lifelong recreational and subsistence fishing experience” and has also “participated in Hawai‘i’s commercial fishery for six years.” Prior to her current position – a law clerk at the Hawai‘i State Judiciary, Kamakaala was the community- based fisheries planner at the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources.
Kaho‘ohalahala “is a lifelong traditional subsistence fisher and gatherer,” Ige wrote, mentioning also his service on the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument’s advisory council, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary advisory council, and as community group member of the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument.
Ramsey “is a lifelong recreational fisherman” who also serves as director for the Hawai‘i program of Conservation International, Ige noted. “Prior to his current appointment, he served as the Hawai‘i fisheries extension agent for NOAA NMFS,” the governor wrote.
Winter, manager of the He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve on O‘ahu, was identified by Ige as a subsistence fisher. Instead, those chosen to fill the two at-large vacancies on the council were Howard Dunham of American Samoa, said by Wespac to represent commercial fishing interests, and Monique Genereux of Guam, a restaurateur. However, Dunham’s financial disclosure form – available on the council’s website – shows no involvement in fishing, either commercial or recreational, or in any other activity (lobbying, consulting, processing, and the like) that bears on a fishery under the council’s jurisdiction.
Ditto for Genereux’s financial disclosure.
Wespac is one of eight regional fishery management councils established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), which provides the broad outlines of management of the nation’s federal fisheries. Voting members of councils are representatives of the state officials responsible for fishery management – for Hawai‘i, this is the chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources or their designee – as well as the regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. In addition, in the case of Wespac, there are eight voting members who are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.
Those appointed members are supposed to represent a “fair and balanced apportionment, on a rotating or other basis, of the active participants … in the commercial and recreational fisheries” under the council’s jurisdiction. But also, members are to include individuals “who, by reason of their occupational or other experience, scientific expertise, or training, are knowledgeable regarding the conservation and management, or the commercial and recreational harvest, of the fishery resources.”
In annual reports to Congress, the National Marine Fisheries Service identifies the individual appointed members as belonging to one of three categories: commercial, recreational, or “other.” That last category is a catch-all that includes people who may have scientific expertise, experience in natural resources management, or conservation interests. In the most recent (2018) such report, Wespac is shown to have three appointed members representing the commercial sector: Michael Duenas (of Guam’s fisherman’s coop), Mike Goto (of the Honolulu fish auction) and Christinna Lutu-Sanchez (a longline vessel owner in American Samoa); three from the recreational sector: Ed Watamura of the Waialua Boat Club, O‘ahu, Dean Sensui , producer of the show “Let’s Go Fishing,” of O‘ahu, and McGrew Rice, a charter-boat captain in Kona; and two “other” members: John Gourley, a consultant from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Archie Soliai, an executive with the Starkist tuna processing plant in American Samoa.
In 2019, council membership changed, with the departures of Hawai‘i’s Sensui and Lutu-Sanchez. Soliai was reappointed to another three-year term.
So who is on the council now?
Here are the appointed members. Terms expire on August 10 of the year in which the appointment ends.
• Michael Duenas of Guam (2021);
• Archie Soliai of American Samoa (2022);
• John Gourley of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (2020);
• Ed Watamura of O‘ahu (2021);
• Mike Goto of O‘ahu (2020);
• McGrew Rice of Kona (2020);
• Howard Durham of American Samoa (2022);
• Monique Genereux of Guam (2022).
For at least the last two decades, there has been just one representative from a conservation group appointed to the council: Julie Leialoha, an officer of the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. Although council members may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms, Leialoha served two (2010-2016).
At-Large vs. Obligatory
The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides that Wespac is to have eight appointed members, in addition to the five ex-officio members. Of those eight, four are so-called “obligatory” appointments. The governor of each member state or territory on the council provides the secretary of Commerce with a list of nominees for these obligatory seats.
The other four appointed members are at-large members, who may be nominated by any governor of a territory or state in the region.
The number of at-large members from Hawai‘i or any territory included in Wespac’s jurisdiction can therefore vary. Until August 10, when new council appointments took effect, three of the four at-large members were from Hawai‘i (Sensui, Goto, and McGrew Rice, a Kona charter-boat captain). Now, with the two new at-large appointments from Guam and American Samoa, Hawai‘i has just two at-large members: Goto and Rice.
— Patricia Tummons