The Pew Charitable Trusts Concludes Efforts to Negotiate a Buyout of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Bottomfish Fishery

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The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today it is ending its efforts to negotiate a compensation package for fishermen in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to retire their fishing permits. Despite initial interest, few of the fishermen ultimately expressed a desire to negotiate. Pew's decision comes after months of efforts by the Trusts to engage the fishermen in formal discussions regarding a permit buyout, and four months after President George W. Bush designated the region a national monument, thereby creating the world's largest marine reserve. Fishing rights are scheduled to expire in 2011, ending all industry activity in the area. Pew first raised the possibility of putting together a compensation package for the remaining permit holders in early 2005 in discussions with government officials, members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, fishermen, native Hawaiian groups and others. To lead discussions with fishermen this year, Pew retained a highly respected retired local judge. "Following President Bush's announcement, some encouraged us to end our efforts to negotiate a permit buyout because the proclamation closed the region to commercial fishing as of 2011, effectively protecting this highly vulnerable area," said Jay Nelson, project director of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Initiative at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "However, despite this, we remained committed to trying to negotiate a fair and equitable compensation package and stood by our pledge to state and federal officials and to the fishermen. We also felt that the ecosystem would benefit from an immediate halt in all fishing activity, rather than having to wait five years."

In the four months since President Bush announced the NW Hawaiian fishery would be closing in 2011, Pew contacted the permit holders multiple times to encourage their participation in buyout discussions. Pew repeatedly sought an indication of interest from a significant number of them before proceeding with negotiations. However, in spite of these efforts, only two of the eight fishermen responded.

"Ultimately, the goal of protecting this unique archipelago was achieved with the creation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands national monument," said Joshua Reichert, director of the Environment group at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "We would have liked to have begun the restoration of this ecosystem immediately, and to have helped support a fair transition for the remaining fishermen. Yet there is little we can do if the existing permit holders are unwilling to participate in this process with us."

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.

Read the Northwest Hawaiian Islands fact sheet.