Saturday, June 09, 2007

Trouble In Paradise - Hawaii

Trouble in Hawaiian Islands Marine Monument on World Ocean Day
By Sunny Lewis

HONOLULU, Hawaii, June 8, 2007 (ENS) -

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, environmentalists say all is not well in America's first national marine monument on World Ocean Day, observed each year on June 8.
They are outraged at the recent decision of the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, BLNR, to allow bio-prospecting in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.

Conservationists and native Hawaiians are attending the BLNR meeting today in Honolulu to demand a moratorium on all research permits in this far-flung island chain that stretches for 1,400 square miles north and west of the main Hawaiian islands.

"The BLNR's decision is unacceptable," said Vicky Holt-Takamine, president of the 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition and a member of the Congressional commission developing a bio-prospecting policy for the state.

Bio-prospecting is the theft of natural resources from native peoples. It should not happen in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands or anywhere in Hawaii," she said.

The conservationists argue that the BLNR should not grant rights to bio-prospectors when a law on the issue is being drafted.

On the BLNR agenda today are several permits for a University of Hawaii research mission through the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. These researchers are seeking to collect thousands of samples of living organisms with the possibility of patenting the biological material they find.

The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology received $2.3 million in federal funding for this research project last summer, but the permit applications were made public only last week.

The ship for this research mission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hi'ialakai, is requesting permission to dump human waste in the monument waters. According to the permit application, the ship's waste system is broken and unable to separate grey water from black water, so the institute says it must dump both types of waste into the ocean on a daily basis.

But dumping waste is prohibited in both the state and federal waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. "This is not the way to treat a fragile and unique marine environment," said Marti Townsend of KAHEA: The awaiian-Environmental Alliance. "Dumping waste water onto ancient, pristine coral reefs is inexcusable, especially when it is the federal government doing...

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