Rally against rollback of NWHI protections

Rec'd via email from KAHEA ...

From: KAHEA <kahea-alliance @ hawaii.rr.com>
Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2007 19:07:39 GMT
Subject: Rally Against the Rollback of NWHI Protections


FRIDAY June 8th
9:00 a.m.

Board of Land and Natural Resources
1151 Punchbowl Street
Room 132

Details in the extended entry...

The NWHI are in jeopardy. The public united and successfully protected the public trust waters of the NWHI from commercial fishing. Unfortunately, the international spotlight placed on the NWHI has led to a flood of activity and increasing threats to precious natural and cultural resources. Last year hundreds of people went to the NWHI including extreme sports enthusiasts and researchers who obtained permission to remove thousands of biological samples - including over 1,500 coral samples.

Suddenly the NWHI is a "sexy" place to go - millions of dollars have been raised to finance a Research Gold Rush which has descended on the NWHI in full force. Meaningful public involvement in NWHI decision-making has been blocked, violations of basic NWHI protections have been occurring, and - in the first Board meeting since Peter Young's ouster - the package of stringent permit conditions required by the Board of all NWHI permittees was removed including the Board's ban on bioprospecting.

In some ways, the NWHI are more vulnerable now than ever. Your presence is needed to show the public remains united behind the strongest possible protections in the NWHI. Please make time on Friday morning to show your unwavering support for the irreplacable, fragile natural and cultural resources of the NWHI. If can, wear red and bring signs advocating the strongest possible protections for the NWHI.

Current permits at this Friday's hearing include:
1. A vote on whether the new standards pushed through by staff satisfy all of the Board's requirements above. They DO NOT. The new standards do not contain the bioprospecting prohibition nor most of the protective measures listed here. Come and SPEAK OUT on the NEED TO INCLUDE Board Requirements for ALL PERMITS IN STATE WATERS.

2. A proposal to allow a large collecting expedition from UH's Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) ? aiming to conduct bioprospecting, collecting thousands of samples in the NWHI. Only a portion of the HIMB permit applications have been released to the public, making cumulative impact assessment impossible. Scientists are already raising questions about the huge number of samples they are seeking.

Your presence is needed on Friday to:
- the gutting on May 25, 2007 of permit conditions established by the Land Board over the past year while Peter Young was Chairperson,
- the rollback on May 25, 2007 of NWHI protections, including the clear ban on bioprospecting and patenting of NWHI public trust resources,
- approval of a vast collecting expedition by UH/HIMB on a vessel asking to be allowed to dump waste in Monument waters, which is otherwise banned

Insist that:
- a viable process for public input into NWHI hearings must be established,
- staff must obey the DLNR?s stated policy of the fullest possible transparency and release of NWHI documents,
- violators of NWHI protections are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law; enforcement of the state refuge?s one-strike law regarding violators of protection measures


Significant potential for damage to cultural and natural resources of the NWHI:

An overwhelming flood of requests for access to the NWHI to conduct potentially damaging activities continues to pour in to the BLNR. Yet not a single permit has ever been turned down, no matter how potentially dangerous. During the first Board meeting without Peter Young on May 25th, a NOAA ?research? proposal to longline for sharks in monk seal grounds was approved by the Board, despite the fact that DLNR?s own scientists stated that:
- Tthe proposed activity is at odds with the ecological integrity, overall purposes and goals? of the Monument
- There was insufficient thought and effort toward researching alternate, non-destructive methods
- The project is not consistent with the goal of management based on sound science
- There is no evidence that this management tool has been effective
- The activity does not provide adequate safeguards for the environment
- The proposal has very little research value
- The proposal does not address the very real concern that some of the many Hawaiian monk seals using the area proposed for setting the hooks will not be caught and drowned.

The public only had 4 days to review this proposal which had been received by DLNR almost 4 months earlier. At the last minute, when it seemed that the Board might actually vote against the proposal, a DLNR representative presented some instant amendments, which no member of the public had a chance to review. The researcher spoke against some of the amendments (like checking the hooks during the 12 hr period they would be left overnight in the water to be sure no monk seals were entangled). Those amendments were then removed and the permit was approved.

Bioprospecting Now Allowed in the NWHI:

For the last year, conditions on permits to access state waters prohibited bio-prospecting. The BLNR removed that protection at the last meeting by adopting the joint Monument permit without adding the additional permit requirements developed over the last year of public meetings. These requirements reflect the public's consistent call for the strongest possible protections for the NWHI, including a ban on bio-prospecting.

Similarly, in the federal waters, earlier versions of the management plan reflected the public's position by prohibiting bio-prospecting. But the management plan just released for public comment is now silent on the issue of bio-prospecting in federal waters.

This means bio-prospecting is now a permittable activity in the state and federal waters of the NWHI.

Now, the BLNR is faced with implementing this new open-season for bio-prospecting. On the agenda for Friday's BLNR meeting are permits for the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) mission to the NWHI. The goal of HIMB's mission is to take a "census of marine life" by extracting over 4,000 samples of living things in the NWHI and bringing them back to the lab with no prohibition on the patenting and privatization of this public trust resource. Last year alone, the HIMB mission received permission to harvest 3,000 samples of invertebrates in the NWHI with no report made to the public regarding what happened to those samples, how they were used, or where they ended up.

These are the early stages of the "Research Gold Rush" now desending on the NWHI. The Monument has made the unique bio-diversity of the NWHI famous and now scientists around the world want to conduct research there and harvest the resources. Our fishing and diving colleagues who have all fought long and hard for protections and have agreed not to operate in the NWHI find this difficult to accept. We have to stand firm now to ensure the biological diversity of the NWHI is negatively impacted. The living creatures of the NWHI are held in the public trust. They are not for the BLNR to give away. They cannot be patented by anyone, especially not a research institution like the University of Hawaii's HIMB.

We strongly support the argument made by the NWHI Reserve Advisory Council that some research is appropriate for the NWHI. This is research that cannot be conducted anywhere else and that directly furthers the conservation goals of the NWHI. Both the State Refuge and Federal Monument mandate that appropriate research be conducted for the purpose of improving conservation and management of the NWHI ecosystem. Bio-prospecting is not necessary to meet this mandate.

Rollback of state protections achieved through public Land Board hearings during the first year of the State Refuge:

During the first year of state refuge operations, Peter Young led the Land Board in insisting on stringent permit terms, conditions and instructions be applied to all state NWHI permits. These permit requirements countered efforts by DLNR staff to try to substantially modify permit conditions without public/board review, insisted on direct oversight of any extractions by the permittee, prevented dangerous chemicals from being carried on unstable small vessels, provided details regarding mandatory waste logs and impact logs, required non-harassment of protected and other unique marine wildlife ? including staying away from large schools of fish, requiring small tender vessels to meet the latest environmental standards, protocols for careful anchoring to avoid damage to coral and detailed practices to prevent alien species transmission. These conditions were robust and detailed and underscored the Board?s commitment to state law, which requires:
- a precautionary approach,
- a 'do no harm' permit system,
- allowing appropriate research,
- strictly limits activities in the NWHI,
- bans waste dumping in state NWHI waters,
- requires strong steps taken against permit violators (the penalty for violating permit conditions is denial of future access to this fragile public trust resource).

To implement the State Refuge, the Land Board:
- banned bioprospecting in the NWHI,
- found that the public trust NWHI resources are ?not to be used for sale, patent, bioassay, or bioprospecting, or for obtaining patents or intellectual property rights,?
- prohibited commercial activities, including bioprospecting and ?sale, patent, bioassay, or bioprospecting, or for obtaining patents or intellectual property rights,?
- required permitted activities to show 'demonstrable benefits to the preservation and management of the NWHI ecosystem,'
- required that 'the activity must do no harm to the ecological or biological systems, sites or resources of the NWHI, or by virtue of the mode of transport to be employed for access,'
- require that the activity must have 'demonstrable benefits to the cultural and spiritual relationship of Native Hawaiians to the NWHI ecosystem,' and
- 'must support the perpetuation of traditional knowledge and ancestral connections of the Native Hawaiians to the NWHI.'

But in the first meeting after Young's removal, DLNR staff successfully pushed the Board to approve a Monument Permit Form that eliminated most of the state's 13 pages of permit instructions, terms and conditions described above. The Board - apparently unfamiliar with the details - voted to accept the new Monument form but refused to vote to state that this new permit form captured all of the Board requirements. The vote on whether the new permit form actually meets Board requirements was postponed until this coming Friday. The permit form approved by the Board does NOT fulfill the Board requirements as detailed in their 1/26/07 vote.

Waste Water Dumped in the Monument:

FRIDAY's hearing involves a permit for the Hi`ialakai, which proposes dump waste into Monument waters instead of traveling outside Monument boundaries to dump (as required by law). NOAA has consistently refused to retrofit this vessel to solve its waste problem. SPEAK OUT ON THIS

NOAA's Hi'ialakai is the vessel for the HIMB mission and it has requested a special permit to violate the Monument?s prohibition on dumping waste in federal waters of the NWHI. The Hi'ialakai application claims that they cannot separate out black water from other waste streams, so will they be dumping black water into the Monument. However, this is a direct contradiction of statements made during last year's permitting season when it was admitted that the vessel had the ability (i.e. a pipe) to separate the waste and that a relatively simple retrofitting of the vessel could prevent the need to make daily dumps of thousands of gallons human waste, ?grey water,? chemicals, and laboratory water into the fragile waters of the NWHI.

Under the new joint permit, there are no detailed requirements regarding what must go into waste dumping reports for vessels in the Monument. Reports are will only be made annually, despite the availability of technology enabling real-time reporting. The language that was removed called for a log of all discharges, time, date, volume, description, name of person dumping, signed by ship?s captain.

Native Hawaiians and the Best Available Science Ignored:

At the last meeting, (May 25) the BLNR approved a permit to longline for Galapagos sharks at French Frigate Shoals. Both scientists and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners recommended against granting this permit because its methodology not only violated traditional cultural practices, but also basic principles of the scientific method. The BLNR ignored these recommendations and approved the permit anyway.

Granting this permit proves that the NWHI protections are an empty promise to respectfully perpetuate Native Hawaiian cultural principles and practices.

Permit Violations Are Not Prosecuted:

Last season, at least two coral disease researchers with HIMB's expedition violated their permit by harvesting coral from one part of the NWHI, keeping it alive and continually dumping wastewater from the coral over the side of the vessel , cultivating bacteria from it, traveling with their collections to other parts of the NWHI, where the daily-dump of waste water could potentially spread coral disease through the NWHI chain. This violation was reported to state and federal officials, but apparently the state did not instruct its own enforcement agency to investigate the matter until very recently, after significant public pressure. To date no publicly visible action has been taken address these violations at the state or federal level.

The State Refuge has a strict one-strike rule that prohibits a violator from receiving future permits to access the NWHI. However, the same researcher apparently submitted an application to continue work in the NWHI. The DLNR received this permit application on February 1, 2007 but hid it from the public until KAHEA pressed hard for the release of the information. To date, we have only seen a list of applicants but have not received a copy of the permit application. By law, DLNR is obligated to reject this permit based on the plain language of the state regulations.

The Public Has No Meaningful Input into the Decision-Making Process:

To this day, the only window into the permitting process is the BLNR agenda posted four working days before the public meeting held every two weeks. This is a ridiculously small window, given the hundreds of pages of complex documents that must be reviewed before meaningful comments can be developed. The short time period means that it is very difficult for the NWHI hui's panel of permit reviewers to provide comments to the decision-makers. The DLNR staff refuse to properly implement the state 45-day public comment period on all permits to access state waters. Instead, they release permit applications on a piecemeal basis, making it impossible to assess the cumulative impact of so much research conducted in such a fragile and unique environment.

Even worse, at the federal level the monument trustees have absolutely no process for involving the public in decision-making. Other than two commercial permits posted on line, not a single federal permit to access the NWHI monument has ever been seen by the public, much less reviewed prior to a final decision.

This is completely unacceptable. Our public trust resources will not be managed in the dark. We demand a meaningful opportunity to provide input on the protection of our public trust resources.

We need your help to force the sunshine in on this perverted public process. Please, if at all possible, make time to join us downtown on Friday morning, wear red, and bring your signs.

Mahalo piha.   

Posted: Tue - June 5, 2007 at 04:01 PM    
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Published On: Jun 05, 2007 04:04 PM
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