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Endangered Species

Thousands of plant and animal species are unique to Hawaii and found nowhere else on the globe. What is your plan to ensure that this biodiversity is protected both now and for future generations?

The vast array of flora and fauna on the Hawaiian Islands are a major draw to visitors; tourism is the state's number one industry. In addition, forests serve as natural sponges, collecting water and facilitating its path into the watershed system. Native plants and animals are also studied for their medicinal applications. Hawaii's agriculture is also dependent on healthy forest watersheds, and native plant species have been hybridized with commonly used plants to produce stronger crops. Protecting the Hawaii's ecosystems and biodiversity is central to ensuring that the state's natural treasures are available for future generations to enjoy.

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Do you support strengthening the Endangered Species Act as a means of better protecting declining populations of plants and wildlife?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was designed as a means of counteracting the alarming rate of species extinction. Since its passage in 1973, more than 1,000 endangered or threatened plant and animal species have been awarded federal protection. Although Hawaii occupies only 0.2 percent of the land area of the United States, nearly 75% of the nation's documented plant and bird extinctions were Hawaiian species. Unfortunately, growing pressure from special interest groups, such as oil, timber, mining and livestock interests, threatens to weaken the ESA. Future elected officials will have a say in whether this important conservation act will continue to safeguard our nation's plant and animal diversity, or whether it will be weakened to incorporate the wishes of the special interests who view it as too costly and burdensome.

Off the coasts of Hawaii, fishers' longlines often snag endangered species, particularly whales, sea turtles and seabirds. Would you support increased funding for additional observation staff to help ensure that these species are protected?

An observation staff is responsible for the monitoring and limiting of longline-marine life interactions. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently decreased the observation staff to a statistically insignificant 1 percent. With so few observers remaining (two out of the previous 14), it is uncertain what the effect will be on endangered species populations, particularly leatherback sea turtles. After being hooked on longlines, turtles not discovered in time may die as a result of injury or drowning. The current estimate is that between 114 and 231 leatherbacks are hooked while migrating to and Hawaii annually, though not all are from the Costa Rica subpopulation. The Pacific sub-population of leatherbacks that nest on the western coast of Costa Rica are predicted to be biologically extinct within the decade. By 2004, the Costa Rican subpopulation is predicted to fall below 50. As the species divides its time between Costa Rica and Hawaii, it is Hawaii's responsibility to see that they do their part to ensure the turtles' survival. If action isn't taken soon to help protect these and other marine animals, yet another species will fall prey to man-caused extinction.

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