News reports say that a Congressional investigation into the Western Pacific Management Council found the agency was secretive and not responsive to the public as it made decisions about fisheries. The agency has long been suspected of being corrupt and putting profits and seafood industry friends before the protection of sea turtles, whales, marine life and the interests of local fishers or anyone else. The Government Accountability Office report can be viewed here. News reported on July 10 that “the Government Accountability Office paints a disturbing picture of the council’s lack of transparency. The report rightly calls for the council to improve public access to its records, including meeting minutes.

“At a time when most public agencies routinely put their documents online, the council requires a visit to its office to inspect or copy most of its available records, the report said. In addition, a citizen must file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain anything ‘not normally made available to the public.’

Even members of the council have had trouble. The GAO found it took staff eight weeks to produce copies of the council’s 2006 and 2007 annual budgets and its 2006 audit report. That’s unreasonable. Other fishery councils have years worth of records accessible with a mouse click.”

The Honolulu Advertiser quoted former WESPAC council member Rick Gaffney as saying said the probe was “incomplete.”

“I don’t think it will improve unless it gets a really massive slap on the wrist and I don’t think the GAO does that,” he said.

Gaffney said he turned down an opportunity to be reappointed to the council for another term because he felt the council “was failing fisheries in Hawai’i.”

Photo/Doug Perrinne