All Talk, No Action

From  Andrea:

I attended the Reserve Advisory Council meetings on the Draft Science Plan for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument last Tuesday and Wednesday.  After two full days of meetings, I left thinking the whole process was, in the words of Shakespeare, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The Reserve Advisory Council is a citizen advisory body with the important responsibility of providing advice and recommendations to the co-trustees (via NOAA’s representation) on management of our beloved Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.  The Draft Science Plan discussed at this meeting prioritizes research activities, meaning this plan determines what access and activities will be allowed for research within the protected Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. What access and activities are allowed within the Monument determines, ultimately, what on-the-ground level of conservation the Monument will be afforded.

These two long days of meetings, full of heated debates and hammering out precise language for this important Science Plan, led to…well, nothing!  The Reserve Advisory Council (RAC) did not even have the necessary quorom- that is, minimum number of members necessary to make decisions and carry out their function, leading me to wonder why everyone spent two long, full days for all talk, no action.

I was particularly frustrated that the RAC went through all the motions but in the end lacked quorom because I have issues with the draft Science Plan.  Under the Plan’s prioritization system of permits, most potential activities for permitting were ranked as “critical” or “high” priority.  Can you call it “prioritized,” if everything is deemed important? Such a high proportion of activities deemed to be “critical” and “high” priority implicates a high proportion of permitted activities in the Monument, which was originally established under a guideline of no access unless permitted.  Clearly, the prioritization system needs some refining to serve the purpose of the Monument.

I am afraid to report that, as the draft Science Plan stands now, access into this protected Monument via the permitting system will not be much of a hurdle.  Just as one example, the Science Plan’s risk analysis section asks “what is the harm of NOT conducting the research,”  without ever asking “what is the harm” of conducting it.  How can you assess whether a proposed research project is worth the risk it poses to the environment, if you never ask the question?

Clearly, the Science Plan needs a lot more work.  Unfortunately, who knows when the RAC will have the necessary attendance to decide on revisions to the Science Plan.  I guess the system for determining which permits are granted in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will have to be put on hold until enough RAC members decide to fulfill their duty of attending RAC meetings.  Otherwise, the plan may be adopted without genuine oversight and input from the “citizen’s” advisory group.

Document Actions
Add comment

You can add a comment by filling out the form below. Plain text formatting. Web and email addresses are transformed into clickable links. Comments are moderated.


Empower grassroots efforts to protect Hawaiʻi with your donation today.

E-mail Sign-up
Follow Us