Providing formal, public testimony is an important part of Pacific Whale Foundation’s advocacy work. Testimony is submitted on a variety of ocean related issues, both locally in Hawaii and around the world.
In 2016, NOAA / National Marine Fisheries Service published a proposed rule to prohibit swimming-with and approaching Hawaiian spinner dolphins within 50 yards. Spinner dolphins spend the daytime resting in bays and nearshore areas after feeding offshore at night. Disruption of the resting behavior can impact the overall fitness of spinner dolphins and their ability to forage. The proposed regulations align with our Be Dolphin Wise set of best practices for tour operations, and we support the proposed rule.
Pacific Whale Foundation acknowledges that the best available science indicates that the number of humpback whales has increased in the North Pacific. However, we urge NOAA to assume the precautionary principle when addressing this issue, and do not believe that delisting is warranted at this time. It is likely that pre-exploitation levels of North Pacific humpbacks numbered around 100,000. To achieve the state recovery goal of 60% carrying capacity would thus require the current population to number 60,000 individuals – three times the current population estimate.
On Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (Earth Day!), the Maui County Council voted unanimously in support of the Tobacco-Free Beaches and Parks bill. The day was historic for environmental and public health organizations on Maui, who are looking forward to cleaner cleaner beaches and coastlines for Maui County. The success of the bill hinges on education and outreach, and will rely heavily on community-based enforcement.
Cigarette butts are the number one most littered item in the world. They are toxic and pose a hazard for marine life, coastal communities, and the public. Both Oahu and the Big Island have already implemented some form of tobacco-free beaches legislation. Pacific Whale Foundation has been raising awareness about cigarette butt litter for nearly a decade, and we are ready to see Maui County take the next step towards solving an incredibly pervasive and chronic environmental issue. Learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s Tobacco-Free Beaches and Parks campaign.
In the 1970’s, killer whales (orcas) from the Northwest Pacific were rounded up by wranglers, herded into pens and then sold into captivity. A female orca named “Lolita” was eventually sent to the Miami Seaquarium where she has remained for the past 40 years. Lolita is a member of the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) distinct population segment, which was listed as “Endangered” on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 2005. She is the sole member of the SRKW population that remains in captivity, but has yet to be included under the endangered listing because of her captive status. National Marine Fisheries Service is currently reviewing a petition that seeks to amend the Endangered Species Act so as to recognize Lolita under the Endangered Species Act, which could increase the likelihood of Lolita’s eventual release from captivity.
Healthy fish populations are essential to maintaining healthy coral reef ecosystems. While a number of factors contribute to declines in fish populations, overfishing (removing fish from the environment at a rate faster than the fish can repopulate) is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The Department of Land and Natural Resources has been working extensively to reformulate the current fishing regulations. The proposed regulations are a combination of minimum and maximum size limits, catch limits, and open/closed seasons. Pacific Whale Foundation supports the regulations because they are comprehensive, species specific and rely on best available science with regards to the biology and life history of reef fish.
In April 2013, the Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc. petitioned the federal government to re-classify the North Pacific population of humpback whale as a Distinct Population Segment, and then to remove this Distinct Population Segment from the Endangered Species List. Pacific Whale Foundation feels that removal of this species from the endangered species list is premature and unwarranted. The petition for removal does not adequately acknowledge the complexity of the North Pacific humbpack whale stock, nor does it critically evaluate the status of the stock in relation to data gaps and current threats.
In June 2012, the Georgia Aquarium submitted an application for a Marine Mammal Protection Act Permit. The application requested authorization to import 18 beluga whales from the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station in Russia to the U.S. for the purpose of public display. The animals were previously captured from the Russian Sea of Okhotsk. Pacific Whale Foundation adamantly opposes the capture and captivity of any marine mammal for public display purposes. We believe that the public display of marine mammals is not necessary to engage people, and instead provides the public with a false picture of the animal’s natural lives. On August 5, 2013 the Federal government denied Georgia’s Aquarium’s permit application
In June 2012, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs (AHCC) petitioned the federal government to delist the Hawaii population of the green sea turtle from the Endangered Species List. AHCC maintains that the increase in nesting female abundance over the past 30 years warrants delisting. Pacific Whale Foundation notes that while the number of nesting females has increased, this number does not meet stated recovery goals. Furthermore, threats to sea turtles in the Hawaiian Islands have not been eliminated. Pacific Whale Foundation asks the federal government to carefully and prudently consider the petition in relation to the best available science and the definition of a “recovered” population.
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) requested a Coastal Commission permit to begin a series of high-energy surveys along 130 miles of ocean in order to better understand the fault lines and seismic safety of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. The surveys were to be conducted by a 235-foot vessel towing a 1/4-mile-wide array of submerged, 250-decibel air cannons that would discharge every 15 seconds, night and day, for 17 days. Pacific Whale Foundation joined other environmentalists in arguing that the environmental impact of the surveys (such as injury and/or disruption of thousands of marine mammals including whales, dolphins, seals and sea otters) greatly outweighed the survey benefits. In November 2012, the California Coastal Commission denied PG&E the permit.
Honoapi’ilani Highway serves as the main artery into and out of Maui’s west side. Due to large, summer south swells and short-sighted planning, certain shoreline portions of the highway are severely threatened by coastal erosion. This prompted then Governor Neil Abercrombie to approve shoreline armoring along the Ukumehame portion of the highway under the tsunami disaster declaration. This action was exempt from environmental monitoring, and resulted in severe sedimentation of the reef directly adjacent to the hardening project. Pacific Whale Foundation advocates for sustainable coastal planning that considers the environmental impact of projects, which was not the case with the Ukumehame shoreline hardening project.