The Pew Charitable Trusts Opens Formal Discussions with Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Fishermen

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On June 15, President Bush designated the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, thereby creating the world's largest marine reserve. One provision of the designation is an end to all commercial fishing within the reserve, with the exception of holders of valid bottomfish permits, who are allowed to continue fishing for five years. The Pew Charitable Trusts has invited the eight bottomfish permit holders to discuss surrendering their fishing permits earlier in exchange for monetary compensation. “The Pew Charitable Trusts joins President Bush, Governor Lingle, native Hawaiians, and countless others in wanting to see the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands fully protected,” said Joshua Reichert, director of the Environment program at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We continue to believe that a fair and reasonable compensation package to retire all of the remaining bottomfish permits will bring economic certainty to the fishermen and facilitate a quicker recovery of the monument's marine environment and wildlife.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts has invited all eight of the permit holders to enter formal discussions regarding their surrender of existing permits back to the government in return for compensation. The Trusts has retained retired judge Patrick Yim to lead these discussions with the fishermen. The Trusts first raised the possibility of a compensation package in early 2005 in discussions with state and federal officials, members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, fishermen, native Hawaiian groups, and others. The Trusts has consistently maintained that three criteria be met in order to affect a successful buyout:
  • All eight of the permit holders must participate in the final agreement. Realizing the goal of a true no-take reserve requires that all of the eight existing fishing permits be retired.   
  • Compensation must be based on fair-market value as determined by catch history and fishing income.   
  • The federal government must agree to retire permanently the fishing permits once they are surrendered by the existing permit holders and not reissue them.
“We appreciate Pew's offer to help transition the fishermen out of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and encourage the eight permit holders to negotiate in good faith,” said Peter Young, Chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

With the President's monument designation now official and bottomfish permits slated to expire by June 15, 2011, the Trusts seeks the earliest possible start to the discussions and a successful resolution of the negotiations by the end of the year. The Trusts has sent formal letters to each of the eight permit holders requesting that they indicate by August 12 whether they are interested in pursuing discussions.

“We would like to begin these discussions as soon as possible,” said Joshua Reichert, “and hope that all of the permit holders will respond positively to our invitation. Without the involvement of all eight fishermen we will not be able to proceed.”

William Aila, longtime fisherman and Native Hawaiian activist, also encouraged the fishermen to negotiate. “It makes little sense to compensate one or a few of the fishermen. From the beginning we have understood that only a complete closure will result in a true pu'uhonua (refuge).”

About the Pew Charitable Trusts Environment Group

The Environment Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts is one of the nation's leading forces in conservation. Staffed by senior scientists, attorneys and policy experts, the group focuses on reducing the scope and severity of three major global problems: climate change brought about by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the planet's atmosphere; the erosion of large wilderness ecosystems that contain a great part of the world's remaining biodiversity; and the destruction of the world's marine environment, with a particular emphasis on global fisheries. The Trusts has played a leading role in many of the major policy advances in U.S. marine conservation since the early 1990s, and operates one of the largest marine conservation programs in the United States.

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