Sunday, November 04, 2007


Superferry bill fraying at the edges?

by Larry Geller

From today's Advertiser:

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official has told the state that the federal government cannot place observers on Hawaii Superferry to monitor endangered humpback whales anytime soon, undermining a key operating condition recommended by state lawmakers.

Gee, that's in the bill. Now what? This bears checking—who said NOAA had agreed?

The article also mentioned that a NOAA fisheries review of whale strikes between 1975 and 2002 did indeed record whale strikes by ferries. What will be our reaction should that happen here, while the EA or EIS is not yet finished? When the Legislature has caved in to the governor and allowed the ferry to sail? I haven't seen any evidence of planning for that eventuality, nor (unless my tired eyes are missing something) does the bill address what it would mean should one or more whale strikes take place.

All this leads back to the question of whether Judge Cardoza will actually lift the injunction. Suppose he doesn't want to play the game the Legislature has so weakly outlined?

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From a recent letter to the ed in the Advertiser:


Due to the Superferry fiasco, I would like to report on whale collisions with large ships worldwide.

The following data is from a National Fisheries Service report titled "Large Whale Ship Strikes":

From 1975 through 2002 there were 292 reports of whale collisions worldwide. This is an average of approximately 11 collisions per year.

Of the 292 cases, 20 occurred in Hawaiian or Alaskan waters, or an average of less than one collision per year.

Of the known vessel types in collisions (134), the collisions were with the Navy ( 23), whale-watching boats (19), cruise liners (17) and ferries (16). All other collisions were by other types of ships.

There are an estimated 30,000 humpback whales in the ocean, and the population is growing at the rate of 7 percent per year. That means there will be 2,100 more humpback whales next year. This is an endangered species; however, it's not endangered because of collisions with ships

You can draw your own conclusions as to how important it is to protect the humpback whales in Hawaiian waters from ship collisions."

So...the "HSF will hit a few whales and will alter the species forever" arguement loses its wind.

If the legislature's intent was that observers definitely be on board then they did a rediculously poor job of drafting that section. As it is written, the law is satisfied so long as the company "Request[s] an observer." Sen. Menor, who added this requirement to the bill, seems to have known that NOAA observers would not be immediately available. He says he hopes the governor or Superferry will provide independent observers. And they probably will. But even if they don't, because of how the requirement is written, I don't see how a judge could refuse to lift the stay based on this section, so long as the company makes the request.

Time for one of those meteors in close collision course with the earth to strike us dead already. We really don't deserve this planet. So what if the whale population is growing 7% per year? How accurate are those whale collision reports anyway? How many collisions were not reported?

I don't know how a judge would decide. But if the provisions of the new law were not adequate, that might weigh in. So no NOAA observers could be one factor. Again, I have no idea how these decisions might be made. You could be right, or maybe the judge won't even consider the new law. We shall see.

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