The Honolulu Civil Beat article “Congressman Blasts Fishery Council for ‘Improper Lobbying’” by Kirstin Downey repeats unsubstantiated and serious allegations of Congressman Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI). These allegations could have been clarified through review of the procedures and regulations of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which are publicly available.

Green sea turtle petition: After considering the improved abundance and distribution information on Hawaii green sea turtles, the Council voted to direct Council staff to assist in the preparation of a request to the National Marine Fisheries Service to classify the population as a Distinct Population Segment as a step toward potential delisting.

A green sea turtle dozes on the beach.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

The Council routinely makes conservation and management recommendations related to fisheries stocks, protected species and marine ecosystems, as authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

Nevertheless, some interest groups objected to the Council’s use of an established regulatory process to initiate the sea turtle’s delisting and accused the Council of improperly using grant funds for this purpose. The Council promptly responded to inquiries from the NOAA Office of Acquisitions and Grants without further issues or concerns.

Marine national monuments and lobbying: The Council is authorized and expected to provide the Commerce Secretary with current and accurate scientific information and recommendations regarding fisheries and fish stocks under its jurisdiction, which enables the Secretary to make informed conservation and management decisions affecting the fisheries.

The Council is also authorized in appropriate circumstances to provide technical and factual information regarding the impact of proposed legislative initiatives and Executive decisions on fisheries under its jurisdiction, including the establishment of monuments.

The Council fully supports science-based initiatives to conserve and protect fish stocks, protected resources and marine ecosystems that take into account the needs of sustainable fisheries that serve our communities.

Procedures: The Council’s wpcouncil.org website (under calendar and meetings) provides detailed minutes, agendas and notices of meetings as required by the MSA, and the meetings are webcasted when it is practical to do so. The MSA does not currently require the posting of audio, video or verbatim transcripts of meetings.

Conflicts of interest: As the article indicates, Congressman Sablan has provided no evidence of actual conflicts of interest by Council members. Council members are subject to strict rules of conduct under the MSA and implementing regulations at 50 CFR 600.235.

Basically, financial conflicts of interest are addressed through each appointed member’s annual filing of a Statement of Financial Interest Form and by the member’s recusal from voting on any Council decision that may have a significant effect on those financial interests.

Financial interest forms are available for public inspection on the Council’s website at wpcouncil.org.

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