Last year, President Bush set aside a large tract of coast off the northern Hawaiian Islands as a marine protected area (MPA) and National Monument. Politically, islanders tell me, this was not too difficult because U.S. fishing interests in the northern Hawaiian islands are relatively small. In the main islands, it's a different story.
At present, only 0.3% of the the main Hawaiian islands' coast is protected. Scientists, such as NOAA's Alan Friedlander (lead author on a study published in April's Ecological Applications on main Hawaiian island MPA's) believe that 20% of the coast needs protection to rebuild fish stocks. Friedlander's work has shown that total fish biomass in main island protected areas was 2.7 times greater than the biomass in comparable unprotected areas.
Who might oppose a proposed 20% protection? First, any one of the state's estimated 260,000 unlicensend anglers (the waters off of Kona are scoured by boats like 'Bite Me' and the sportfishers onboard who are paying huge sums to catch huge fish). Also, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac), whose chair is also president of the Hawaii Longliners Association. To further the conflict of interest, islanders report Wespac receives royalties from its fisheries. Worried about future conservation initatives, opponents have put a 'right-to-fish' bill into action that would stymie protection efforts.