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Is This the Death of Common Sense?

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

It is almost hard to believe the wave after wave of examples of how local officials are managing to defeat efforts to improve the economy. First, it was stalling a change in land use zoning for a future power plant site, next it was the final adoption of rules that would in effect close down all commercial activity on the Hanalei River and now a federal judge has decided without any empirical evidence that the state’s longline fishing industry is deserving of being shut down.

What is curious is that in a judicial where we believe that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, the federal judge has decided to impose restrictions that effectively put thousands of people out of work and made it impossible to make a living in this particular industry. Beter yet, in doing so, it affects only those fishing boats under the jurisdiction of the federal court. It does nothing to restrain those foreign fishers out of the federal court’s reach.

But by restricting Hawaii-based fishers, it frees up the same ocean to those fishers who don’t homeport in Hawaii. And who is to monitor what those ships do to insure the safety of sea turtles?

What is probably the most difficult aspect to believe is the disconnect between the judge’s order to require that each of the one hundred plus fishing boats carry at least one observer to gather data about the accidental hooking of sea turtles in view of the very hard fact that there are only two such trained observers in the whole state. Did the judge not know that or did he intentionally ignore that fact? Or was the decision an indirect way of indeed closing down the entire industry?

Some critics on the other side assail those who find the judge’s decision appalling as merely selfish attitude of putting the ME before the environment and the good of the world. Well, if those who crticize the protests are willing to support the families of the more than 2,000 fishers and those services which support the fishing industry, then please step forward. If anything, those critics are just as selfish because they have their jobs and nice little houses and too bad for those fishers because they are doing something “bad” to the environment, because they are killing endangered species. Little do they think that in this case, it is the fishers and their families who may also be “endangered species.”

While we all should be concerned about our environment, there has to be a little common sense and an attempt to strive for balance. In this case, the judge effectively, in one fell swoop, will close down an industry despite that fact that he has no real evidence – a fact that he admits by requiring the gathering of evidence by the observers who would be required to be on those fising vessels.

And note well the emergency appropriation to pay for those observers making its way to the White House. Is it those who demand a stop to the longline fishing or is it we the taxpayers who are going to foot the bill? Seems that if those who would sue to stop the activity should also be the ones to pay to prove there is an illegal activity actually being undertaken. No, as usual, it is the taxpayers who have to pick up the tab. Is there something wrong with this picture?

The point of the matter is that many have been struggling over the past ten years to find ways to improve the economic outlook, to improve the potential for creating jobs, and improve the perception that Hawaii is indeed a good place to do business. Then comes these decisions and actions with extreme positions and no attempt to find balance and compromise.

When and until there is a return of common sense and a willingness to work out a compromise where preservation of our pristine environment can be achieved without destroying the economic future of the state, only then can there be hope for the community. For those who are unwilling to work together to find an acceptable solution, perhaps they should be asked to support all those who have been put out of work to either put food on their tables or to pay to find other jobs for them or to provide retraining.

Finally let’s use some common sense on this longline issue. If the fishing is halted for those who operate out of Hawaii, don’t you think that local fishers will go elsewhere or that the fishing will continue but will be done by fishers who are not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Let’s get real here.

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