Pacific Fisheries Coalition




  pacific fisheries coalition Does Hawaii Need An Aquatics Department?


Surrounded by coral reefs and the largest exclusive economic zone of all the 50 states, the State of Hawaii should be justifiably proud of being the ocean state. But neither its budget nor the fact that its aquatic agencies are split between at least five departments give any hint of that. The Department of Land & Natural Resources' primary focus is on land issues and when the legal mandates of the Land Division and the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) conflict, the Land Division interests almost always takes precedence. DAR's budget is 48th out of the 50 states in the United States. The Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation and the Harbors Division are in two different departments. Fishing and boating regulations are enforced by 105 all purpose Conservation & Resource Enforcement Division officers that divide their time between land and sea infractions, with DAR having no authority to direct their enforcement efforts. The Coastal Zone Management Program is buried in the Office of Planning; the Ocean Resources Branch is housed in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The Aquaculture Development Program has been put in the Department of Agriculture, but with the growth in open ocean mariculture and its potential impacts on coastal ecosystems, this program does not belong in DAG. In addition, DAG controls the importation of alien aquatic species even though DAG has no expertise in limnology and marine biology and no responsibility for eradicating these organisms if they ultimately infest aquatic ecosystems. The Clean Water Branch is part of the Department of Health, although point and non point source pollution more often than not ends up in coastal waters, not to mention that wetlands preservation under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act is also an inappropriate DOH responsibility. A quick look at five other coastal states (California, Florida, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska) is illuminating: Hawaii takes the prize in the degree of fragmentation of its aquatic-related agencies. Combining and integrating these related divisions and branches in a new Aquatics Department would increase government efficiency, give new life to these agencies, and help Hawaii fulfill its mission as the ocean state.

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