Fall 2003

Plundering the Pacific

Part 1: The CATS
Who Run
the Fishhouse

Imagine the CEO of Weyerhaeuser appointed to run the national forests. As part of the deal, he gets to keep his old job. Federal law wouldn't allow it, of course. It's a simple conflict of interest. But when it comes to the folks who regulate ocean fishing, conflicts of interest are not only permissible, they're a regular part of the game. Full story.

Western Pacific council pushes plan to quash historic coral reserve. Council puts corals, spiny lobster and rare monk seal at risk so a few can profit. Full story.

They took millions of lobsters, and monk seal pups starved to death. Graphic (large file).

Science Friction. Industry resists Pew Commission’s call for change. Full story.

Marine mammals killed by Pacific fisheries. Graphic (large file).

How to speak “fisheries”. Full story.



Part 2: The Rockfish Files.

Documents show the Pacific Fishery Management Council ignored scientific advice as it let the bottom dwellers crash. Full story.

These stocks are down. Hundreds of tons of imperiled rockfish are killed and wasted as bycatch each year in West Coast fisheries. Graphic (large file).

Private ownership of a public resource? The IFQ debate. Full story.


Part 3: Essential Coral Gardens

North Pacific council rejects plan to protect coral and sponge, though the plan meant
little reduction in commercial fishing. Full story.

Protecting our Undersea Yellowstones. Scientists find marine reserves build bigger fish and produce more young. Full story.

From Baja to Bering. Exploring coral and sponge secrets along the West Coast and Alaska. Graphic (large file).



Net effects: A conservation map of the North Pacific. Graphic (very large file).



Fixing our Failed Fisheries.

What you can do for the Pacific Ocean.


More information:

North Pacific Ocean Conservation Directory.


Poachers R Us
A follow up article from Dec. 31, 2003, in the Honolulu Weekly









2003 Cascadia Times


Shopping for Scientists

Wespac's end run around the Endangered Species Act


By Paul Koberstein

The leatherback sea turtle, one of the world’s most endangered large animals, is another species that has tangled with Wespac’s fishing plans. Swordfish longlining kills leatherbacks by hooking or entangling them. In 2000, the journal Nature said unless longlining stopped killing leatherbacks, the species could be only years from extinction.

In 2000, Earthjustice lawyer Paul Achitoff persuaded a federal judge to prevent the swordfish longliners operating out of Hawai‘i from killing sea turtles. Since then, NOAA Fisheries has issued two biological opinions under the Endangered Species Act saying Hawai‘i longlining jeopardizes the leatherback’s existence. NOAA Fisheries is due to complete another biological opinion by April 1, 2004.

Wespac and the industry group Hawai‘i Longliners Association (HLA) have fought the jeopardy rulings with little success. As Wespac Executive Director Kitty Simonds said at a recent public meeting, NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator William Hogarth “promised many, many times over the last several months” that NOAA would develop a solution acceptable to Wespac. “We have yet to see this,” Simonds said.

Wespac is trying to come up with biological opinions that favor longliners. As one federal scientist told the Weekly, “If you can determine which scientists do the work, you can determine the outcome.” The longliners have asked NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher to help them shop for the right scientists.

They hired Ret. Vice Admiral James Lyons, former Commander in Chief of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet during the mid-1980s, to contact Lautenbacher, himself a retired vice admiral. Lautenbacher also served with the Honolulu-based Pacific Fleet during the mid-1980s.

On Oct. 3, Lyons wrote a letter to “Connie” suggesting that scientists based in Hawai‘i “know the science of this issue better than any other group” in the agency. “We have come to the conclusion that those scientists most knowledgeable … should be engaged in this decision making process.”

Similarly, Sean Martin, a Wespac member, pressed the issue with NOAA Fisheries Deputy Administrator Rebecca Lent. “I want to stress that HLA, the Hawaii Congressional Delegation and the Wespac council believe that the solution to this problem needs to be developed with those individuals who know best the local science and biology of our area — that is the Pacific-based individuals” within the agency, Martin wrote.

Both Lyons and Martin requested Sam Pooley, the acting regional director for NOAA Fisheries in Hawai‘i, to chair a working group comprised of selected scientists. Five of the seven longliner-approved scientists all work for NOAA’s Honolulu Lab: Jeff Polovina, Pierre Kleiber, Chris Boggs, Don Kobayashi and George Balazas. A sixth, Milani Chaloupka, is an Australian scientist, and the affliliation of a seventh, Peter Limpus, could not be verified.

So far, NOAA has resisted allowing Wespac to go shopping for scientists. "I assigned staff weeks ago, neither [Wespac] or anyone else had any influence on it and will not have any in the future," says Laurie Allen, director of the agency’s Office of Protected Resources in Maryland. "I have complete confidence in the integrity and ability of those staff to complete a sound, scientifically-based opinion that complies with applicable law. We are aware of the pressures in this case and are being very careful to maintain the integrity of the process. I will be signing this biological opinion and it will say jeopardy or no jeopardy based on my office's analysis.”