Dear Representative Abercrombie,
In cooperation with The Inlandboatmens Union of the Pacific and on behalf of the people and the environment of this beautiful and great State of Hawaii, I am writing to ask your assistance in obtaining a solution to the tragic loss of our Hawaii Longline Fisheries Observer Program. Recently the Administrators of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service decided to not fund the Hawaii Long line Fisheries Observer Program. To accommodate the lack of funding it was announced yesterday that the staff was cut from 13 to 2 observers.
The Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts require the presence of observers aboard the Hawaii Longline fishing vessels. The optimum coverage is 20% of the trips, which has yet to be attained due to the reluctancy of the NMFS to fund the mandatory program. Since its inception the NMFS only provided funding to cover, at most, 4% of the trips annually.
The Hawaii Longline Observer Program is the only reliable source of information for by catch and incidental take of protected species because other reports, created by the industry, could possibly be tainted by a conflict of interest. Any reduction in staffing of the observer program will undermine our attempts to effectively and adequately manage the Hawaii Longline fisheries. This decision will also have a negative impact on the individual jobs and livelihood of the observers and their families. NMFs failure to fund the program translates into the loss of 85% of the work force and is contrary to the building and sustaining of a healthy economy and jobs for the citizens of our State.
Informally we have been advised that in the earlier part of the current fiscal year approximately one million two hundred thousand dollars were allocated to the Hawaii Longline Fisheries Observer Program. Of that, the program only received one hundred twenty five thousand dollars.
With great respect we asking your assistance in encouraging NMFS to immediately fund the Hawaii Longline Fisheries Observer Program. We would also like to request that an investigation be initiated to determine why the program was not adequately funded in the past and how to establish funding for the program in the future.