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Hawaii fishermen want development considered

Audrey Mcavoy, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii fishermen on Monday asked policymakers to address how runoff caused by land development harms reefs, fisheries and oceans when they consider how to cope with the effects of climate change.

Ocean health can't be looked at in segments, Oahu fisherman Roy Morioka told a committee of the federal body responsible for managing fisheries around Hawaii and other parts of the western Pacific region.

Government officials need to take a comprehensive approach, Morioka told a Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council committee on ecosystem management in Hawaii.

"You need to pull it all together. Because not one thing is the issue, it's a collective thing that is the issue," Morioka said.

Carl Jellings, of Waianae, told the committee that fishermen are often told reefs are unhealthy because of overfishing. Fishermen like him are scapegoats, he said.

He argued that what happens on land is one cause of deteriorating reefs. But he says fishermen can't control what happens "up mauka," or toward the mountains.

"We fight every day so we can continue fishing. It's getting harder and harder because more things are happening in the environment that we're getting blamed for," Jellings said.

The fishermen spoke at the council's Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committee for Hawaii fisheries.

The council heard from scientists about how temperatures are rising globally while locally rainfall has been declining. They heard how open ocean species like tuna may adapt better as oceans warm because they can move around. Species like coral that stay in place, may have a harder time adapting.

Committee members also heard about how rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — as humans burn more fossil fuels — are making the ocean more acidic.

Edwin Ebisui, the council's vice chairman, said no one at the meeting disputed climate change and ocean acidification are affecting fisheries. They instead focused on what can be done to protect marine life and marine resources as these changes come.

"The question for the group was, how much can we do to either mitigate, defend against or somehow prepare for what's coming down the road," Ebisui said.

The committee drafted recommendations for the broader council to consider, including a suggestion that the state work with the private sector to develop and implement strategies for adapting to climate change.

It also suggested that the state study how many people can live in and visit Hawaii without irrevocably harming natural resources — something it termed the "carrying capacity" of the islands. Jellings told the committee it would take "a lot of guts" to broach this question.

"How are you going to say we got to reduce 1 million tourists to be sustainable? Or 10 million tourists to become sustainable? How are you going to tell the hotel industry that? The tourism industry that?" Jellings said.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will consider whether to approve the committee's draft recommendations when it meets later this month.