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WestPac's chairman’s death comes at crucial time for Pacific Fishery Council

Edwin Ebisui, left, with Kitty Simonds

Honolulu, HAWAII — The unexpected death this summer of Edwin Ebisui has left the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council with an empty seat and a decision to make on who should take over as its permanent chair.

The leadership void comes at a crucial time for the council, which has been pushing the Trump administration to open up protected waters to commercial fishing.

You can be sure there is all kinds of lobbying going on right now,” said Rick Gaffney, a former council member and head of the Hawaii Fishing and Boating Association.

The council, a quasi-judicial body known as Wespac, has 13 voting members and manages 1.5 million square miles of ocean. It is tasked with ensuring fish stocks remain sustainable while protecting endangered species and natural resources.

Ebisui, 67, was a Honolulu lawyer who fished commercially for bottomfish such as onaga and opakapaka. He was also a strong advocate for Hawaii’s $100 million tuna industry during his tenure on the council.

Last year, Ebisui and Wespac Executive Director Kitty Simonds urged President Donald Trump to remove the marine national monument fishing provisions to return management powers to the council. An executive decision is still pending.

Ebisui and Simonds opposed President Barack Obama’s decision to expand the Pacific Remote Islands and Papahanaumokuakea marine national monuments, sending letters to top elected officials explaining how it would hurt the fishing industry.

Read more at Honolulu Civil Beat