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Hawaii fishermen say development is hurting reefs

By Audrey McAvoy

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 1:42 a.m. HST, Jun 18, 2013

Hawaii fishermen asked policymakers to address how runoff caused by land development harms reefs, fisheries and oceans when they consider how to cope with the effects of climate change.

Ocean health can't be looked at in segments, Oahu fisherman Roy Morioka told a committee of the federal body responsible for managing fisheries around Hawaii and other parts of the western Pacific region.

Government officials need to take a comprehensive approach, Morioka told a Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council committee on ecosystem management in Hawaii Monday.

"You need to pull it all together. Because not one thing is the issue, it's a collective thing that is the issue," Morioka said.

Carl Jellings, of Waianae, told the committee that fishermen are often told reefs are unhealthy because of overfishing. Fishermen like him are scapegoats, he said.

He argued that what happens on land is one cause of deteriorating reefs. But he says fishermen can't control what happens "up mauka."

"We fight every day so we can continue fishing. It's getting harder and harder because more things are happening in the environment that we're getting blamed for," Jellings said.

The fishermen spoke at the council's Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committee for Hawaii fisheries.

The council heard from scientists about how temperatures are rising globally while locally rainfall has been declining. They heard how open ocean species like tuna may adapt better as oceans warm because they can move around. Species like coral that stay in place, may have a harder time adapting.

Committee members also heard about how rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — as humans burn more fossil fuels — are making the ocean more acidic.

Brad Warren, of the global nonprofit organization Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, told the committee ocean acidification affects how marine life and fisheries stocks grow, and this introduces greater uncertainty for fisheries managers.

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