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Anger replaced by education, optimism

Wednesday October 01, 2014 Written by Published in Local
Pictured here during their recent meeting is Huanan General Manager Vincent Dong (left), whale researcher Nan Hauser (centre), and Yei Hsuan Huang - a member of Hauser’s research team. 14093004 Pictured here during their recent meeting is Huanan General Manager Vincent Dong (left), whale researcher Nan Hauser (centre), and Yei Hsuan Huang - a member of Hauser’s research team. 14093004

Nan Hauser to educate foreign fishing crews on local environmental practices and customs

What began as anger over the catching of “pet” fish in Avatiu harbour has now resulted in a joint-effort to educate visiting foreign fishing crews about local environmental practices and customs.
Local whale researcher and conservationist Nan Hauser says she will begin working with fishing crews from Huanan Fishery (Cook Islands) Co. Ltd – holder of a number of longlining fishing licenses – in an attempt to promote a spirit of environmental stewardship.
The development follows public outrage from incidents earlier this month, when crews from the company’s longlining vessels were allegedly seen fishing in the harbour for giant trevally – which are beloved by local fisherman, residents, and tourists.
Vincent Dong, Huanan’s Rarotonga-based General Manager, said two crewmembers have since been fined $200, as fishing in the harbour is a violation
of the company’s own regulations.
Following that incident, Hauser and her team went out to sea and said she saw garbage floating with Asian characters, described as Chinese. Items collected from sea included bottles of silica gel and shampoo.
Their observations were followed by a report from an individual who said they witnessed crew members dumping garbage.
“The person who reported it to us says (they) always see them do it,” she said.
Both incidents follow another event from August, when Hauser and her team of researchers were hosting a visiting Australian journalist. While on the water, she said they noticed a plume of “black” water.
“We realised one of the Chinese boats had emptied its bilges,” she said, adding that the contaminated water had caused a whale to become sick.
“Couldn’t see the bottom of the sea ... the whale was swimming right through it,” reads a passage in Hauser’s daily logbook.
All three events were enough to force her into action.
After discussing the occurrences with officials from the Koutu Nui, the Ports Authority, and the Ministry of Transportation, Hauser said she was encouraged to approach Huanan directly.
During their meeting, she said she asked Dong to work to respect local customs, particularly the protective nature of the harbour – described as a Raui, or protected area.
She said she also reminded him of local laws, such as the required distance a boat needs to travel before emptying its bilges.
“He said, ‘I have an idea’. Why don’t you come to every boat, raise awareness, and teach them to be environmentalists,” said Hauser.
With Dong’s suggestion, a new approach was born to help solve the problem.
“He was great,” said Hauser. “He acknowledged it was hard to control the crew sometimes.”
“I believe in working things out by raising awareness and through peacefulness,” she said.
Yesterday, Dong said he was optimistic the new approach will help improve the company’s environmental efforts, which already include a number of guidelines on shark finning and the catching of sharks, fishing regulations, and the handling of by-catch.
“We can work together to improve our operation,” he said. “Once our next boat arrives, I will take her down to the wharf to train the crew.”
Dong said he expects the next boat to arrive sometime later this month.
Looking forward, Hauser says it’s step in the right direction.
“We feel that we can work together and honour our ocean.” 

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