NMFS LAYS OFF 12 OF IT'S 14 LONGLINE OBSERVERS
In May, 2000, the National Marines Fishery Service announced they would be abolishing 12 of their 14 longline observer positions, placing more workers on unemployment and adding to Hawaiis economic woes. This loss represent 85% of the observer work force and is a direct contradiction to the governments goal of building and sustaining a healthy economy and environment by providing more jobs for the citizens of our State.
In February, 1994, the mandatory Hawaii Longline Observer Program was established to monitor the incidental take of sea turtles from vessels targeting billfish and tuna. The observers were also asked to document the take of seabirds, such as the Laysan and Black-footed albatross, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, whales, and other marine mammals. The closure of these positions means we must now rely on the fishing industrys own documents reporting their interactions with protected species.
Data and recordings of interactions have played a key role in some of our management efforts to protect species such as shark, sea turtles and migratory seabirds. The optimum coverage for meaningful statistics is to have observers aboard 20% of the fishing trips. However, even with the current number of observers this goal has yet to be reached due to the reluctancy of the NMFS to fund the mandatory program.
Abolishing these jobs may be the first step in the fishing industrys attempt to privatize the observer program. This is consistent with actions taken by some boat owners in the Hawaii Longline Fisheries who are using imported crew from the Philippines because they work for less money than the American crews.
Photographs recently recovered from the Hawaii Longline Observer Program show the tragic impacts the longline fisheries have on protected species. Some of the photographs, showing whales, dolphins, Laysan and Black-footed albatross hooked on longlines, will be available at the press conference.
If you have questions or would like to help, please contact Mr. Jonathan Lono Kane, Regional Director, Inlandboatmens Union of the Pacific, 808-847-0611 or Mr. Carroll Cox, EnviroWatch,Inc., at 808-625-2175.