Friday, January 23, 2009

Musings: No Look, No See

The feds have apparently closed their investigation into a passenger report that Hawaii Superferry hit a whale Wednesday morning. As the Star-Bulletin reported:

Wendy Goo, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said a federal marine law enforcement officer happened to be shipping his car on the Superferry and was on the vessel.

She said the officer conducted an investigation and interviewed passengers and the captain.

"He concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to conclusively say there was a ship strike," Goo said. "We're not pursuing it further at this time."


This conclusion doesn’t sit well with everyone. A friend, who is also a marine scientist, sent me this email:

What bothers me most about the news reporting concerning the whale miss is that HSF really has no idea how many they have hit or "glanced off of" without knowing it. They have not put cameras on the bow and stern looking at water level or under water, they have not done inspections after every cruise to check for body parts (whale, monk seal, turtle), they have not put a meter on board that would record any de-acceleration caused by hitting something. If they don't see it with those eyes looking out forward, especially at night, then it didn't happen. They really cannot say, ethically, that they did not hit a whale, seal, turtle; just that they have no evidence of hitting one. And if you don't look closely and check for collisions you will never have any evidence. But you can't tell me they didn't hit anything. I don't believe that.

The Save Kahului Harbor blog, in a post yesterday, also expressed reservations:

The person who was onboard HSF and reported the whale strike to NMFS yesterday has lived his whole life on Maui, knows the ocean and feels that his observation of a whale strike is being dismissed and covered up.

 He reportedly said:
“I know a collision. That was a strike. That was no wave. The entire boat shook underneath where I was sitting. They hit a whale. This was no calm maneuver. The boat slammed into a whale and came to stop. This is a cover up. They are covering this up. Other passengers around me felt the same impact. Other people in other parts of the boat did not."

Apparently divers were ready to survey the hull yesterday but were told to stand down due to lack of ‘credible evidence’.


Why not send divers on a hull survey, just to be sure and lay the matter fully to rest? If you look at the coverage carefully, the feds never do say conclusively that there was no strike. It also appears that the investigation was limited to interviews conducted by an agent who was himself patronizing HSF during the voyage in question. There’s no indication the boat was inspected.

As The Garden Island, which had the most thorough coverage of the incident, reported:

Goo said in a phone interview NOAA was initially “scrambling” to find an enforcement officer to meet the ship and conduct interviews when it arrived in Maui, but an O‘ahu-based officer was coincidentally on board the ship, not serving in any official capacity but taking a vehicle to Maui.

The officer was able to conduct an investigation, talking to the ship’s captain, crew and passengers and eventually determining that there was “no compelling evidence that there was a strike,” Goo said, adding NOAA was “standing down on it because we don’t have any conclusive evidence.”

Bill Robinson, regional administrator for the Pacific Islands regional office of NOAA Fisheries said yesterday in a phone interview that there was no confirmation of a whale strike.

“That doesn’t close the issue entirely. If new information comes to light, then we would continue to look at it. At this point, there just isn’t any real evidence that there was an actual strike,” he said.


When I first got word of the strike report and contacted the NOAA enforcement guys, I was surprised that their plan was to wait until the ferry docked at Kahului to check out the report. If the boat usually arrives about 10 a.m., and the report was made about 7:30 a.m., that means 2.5 hours elapsed — ample time for an injured or dead whale to leave the area or go out to sea.

Surely, if they can mobilize the entire state’s Coast Guard contingent to prevent people from protesting HSF, they could send one CG boat or plane out to take a look. It seems it would be pretty easy to spot blood in the water.

“But that’s assuming they really want to know if a whale was hit,” said an Oahu friend who is also involved in marine conservation issues.

What possible reason could there be for not exploring the matter further, aside from adverse publicity? Well, as the Garden Island also reports:

He [Robinson] said Hawai‘i Superferry has asked for an incidental take statement, a permit that allows holders to “take, harass and harm a marine mammal and be protected under the Endangered Species Act from prosecution.”

NOAA is currently in consultation with Hawai‘i Superferry, so any incidental take — whale strike — to occur before the permit is issued could result in substantial penalties.


A strike could also indicate that the avoidance measures recommended by NOAA in the interim are inadequate, or not being fully followed by HSF. As KGMB TV reported (and the emphasis is mine):

"The Superferry is making a very conscious effort to implement many of the measures we recommended, and they're aware of the public controversy that would be caused if they did hit a whale," said Bill Robinson, NOAA regional administrator.

Why isn't it implementing all of them, especially if it's trying to get an incidental take permit?

Unless a whale washes ashore, we’ll likely never know if HSF did actually hit a humpback. And as my friend’s email noted, that’s precisely the point. We’ll never have a true picture of the marine carnage that the speeding HSF inflicts because no mechanisms are in place to find out.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

cameras seem a reasonable measure, good way to keep a record

Anonymous said...

Appalling about the Superferry coverup. You'd think they'd at least go thru the motions, as everything is being reviewed right now. What idiots.

MauiBrad said...

Good report Joan.

Dawson said...

> "The Superferry is making a very conscious effort to implement many of the measures we recommended, and they're aware of the public controversy that would be caused if they did hit a whale," said Bill Robinson, NOAA regional administrator. <

A federal government agency that sounds like a PR department for HSF answers the question of who else beside HSF has signed on to crew the S.S. "No Look, No See."


> Appalling about the Superferry coverup. You'd think they'd at least go thru the motions, as everything is being reviewed right now. What idiots. <

The ages-old fact is that power cliques, large or small, come together in mutual defense when attacked. They increase their "least-adaptive coping mechanisms" (translation: they do everything possible to shoot themselves in the foot), setting themselves up for more attacks. The cycle repeats until they sink themselves (see Nixon, Bush, Enron et. al.).

The only good news in this steaming pile of kukai is that HSF and its government allies remain locked on the behavioral course they've charted. The more they get busted, the more they'll do of the same behavior that got them busted in the first place.

It's not idiocy, it's group pathology.

Anonymous said...

"Superferry coverup" huh?

i accuse you all of almost being mentally ill

January 23, 2009 10:24 AM

Anonymous said...

the whales are on strike, because they weant the superferry to return to Kauai...

c'mon you guys, the ferry is doing great and you know it.

Find another area to vent your sexual energies...

Kimo Rosen

Anonymous said...

Like writing letters to the editor about tail-gating? That's HOT!

MauiBrad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MauiBrad said...

Dr. Tepley has a good proposal regarding detecting ship-whale collisions at:

http://web.mac.com/leetepley/Site/Introduction.html

Then link to the page: Detecting Whale Collisions - Kona EIS Scoping Meeting

It's realistic, brief and timely, but a little long as a comment here.

Anonymous said...

You did a good job of reporting the whale incident.
When Garabaldi was the CEO of the Superferry and was on the Adam Harju radio show, I called in and asked him a direct question, " is the superferry being subsidized by anyone."
His answer was "absolutely not."
However, if you remember that early on he and his people emphatically stated that their operation couldn't move forward (economically--making a profit) unless they had the Oahu to Kauai run in operation.
To date that run hasn't been incorporated and yet the ferry is still going!!!
When you add 2 and 2 you still get 4----someone HAS to be subsidizing that ferry or it would be gone, right?? In fact I believe those ferry people said the Kauai leg had to be operational in 6 months or they would have to go elsewhere with their ferry's, another lie!!
So, for me, it means that the Feds are the ones who are subsidizing that operation and that would make the reason for the Fed guy on the boat saying what he did. Plus the attitude that NOAA has (another Fed operation) fits right into the mix. Who else but the Federal Government would back an operation that is costing money to run? They even keep saying that they need x amount of cars and people to put the operation in the black and they aren't getting those numbers BUT they are still operating.
Tell Joan to keep up the great work and I would have put this on her blog but I don't know how to do that---I only have minimal knowledge of these computers!!
Glenn

Anonymous said...

In reading articles of other collisions, one boat captain said,
"Its just like hitting a cat on the highway; no big deal."

Anonymous said...

i wager you that a psychiatric clinician would be far more interested in the anti SF people than the pros

as to "Who else but the Federal Government would back an operation that is costing money to run?"

the state of hawaii would be another good example (ie, costs more to run than it makes)

Anonymous said...

Is Dr. Tepley's idea have to do with his profession or is it about whales?

This reporting reminds me of the Hanepepe River flooding when eyewitnesses turned a single loose construction container into reports of four containers; each containing deadly chemicals. It was done by sharing rumors between people who all really wanted to believe the same thing. In the end, they did.

Oh yeah, that reporting was on Island Breath; just like this reporting.

Anonymous said...

Of course the SF is being subsidized! Come on, surely you can guess by whom! Can you say Department of Defense, ie: The Military!!
The SF is only way they can transport their urban assualt vehicles (strykers)to Pohakuloa on the Big Island (where the government nabbed an additional 23,000 acres on Mauna Kea in 2004/2005) so they could play their war games!
It's appalling that we as a human race are so selfishly absorbed that we can shrug off the destruction of such beautifully magnificent creatures as insignificant when WE are the ones that are encroaching in THEIR habitat!!
The SF needs to be held accountable by everyone who lives in these islands to make them do the right thing and it begins by making our voices heard to the person who pushed this through to begin with.....LINGLE!!

Dawson said...

> i wager you that a psychiatric clinician would be far more interested in the anti SF people than the pros <

You'd loose the wager.

A psychiatric clinician who studied the public transcripts, media reporting and public opinion on the HSF since the project was announced would likely conclude that the people alleging improprieties and even illegalities may not have sufficient evidence for a court case, but are anything but paranoid.

From WMDs in Iraq to real estate bubbles on Wall Street, people want to believe that the Powers That Be aren't lying, even when there is evidence warning the contrary. "You're nuts" was the #1 response to the Watergate allegations, right up to the day the bums were busted.

What would interest a psychiatric clinician is the vigor of the denial by government agencies, main stream media and the consumerist public that anything is improper with HSF, not the protestations of Joan Conrow and others that from head to tail, this fish stinks.

Anonymous said...

dear dawson

gotta disagree

but i like the word "evidence" too. im fond of "reasonable" and "rational" as well, along with "honest" and "accurate."

and while im tempted to comment on the anti crowd at the convention, lets let that event be

so i disagree b/ i see many people here, when it comes to the SF, as being delusional, irrational, and dishonest.

(firstly tho, i dont care that much about the SF...its really a non-story, non-issue...and only really interesting as a case study in a few disciplines)

as others had in the past, the SF tried to claim the HRSs applied to it in a certain way. you and others disagreed, and several judges agreed with you. new laws were passed. now people are crying foul again. understood. its basic stuff

i see localism in not wanting others to come here and fish and surf and hunt. not enough room for others? i guess. i dunno. i dont fish or hunt or surf. but not mentioning that these are powerful anti SF forces seems dishonest (and ironically, there are some very good points to be made in this area)

the constant mention of military use or whatever in relation to the SF boarders on the delusional. the military may or will use it and you dont like the military. ok. got it

the exaggerated environmental harm claims seems delusional, irrational, and dishonest

a lack of accurate "compare and contrast" as to the HRSs in relation to new and/or existing inter-island aviation and shipping operations seems....gosh i am sorry - but it seems intellectually dishonest

but i understand. if you take out emotion and add rationality and are more honest, the "reasons" and talking points for why the SF should not be allowed here become far less compelling.

you guys see the "boogie man" on this thing. we dont

but nice job in taking away the chance for local farmers to consider using the SF to better reach the oahu market.

ps - please yell louder at meetings

Katy Rose said...

Yet here's the thing: folks opposed to the Superferry have at least enumerated solid reasons for our concern, whereas those who support it seem unable to offer any real reason for supporting it besides their own personal convenience and recreation.

There's no compelling data to show that the Superferry will help farmers or increase employment or any of a number of other things that proponents claim to be concerned about.

You want opponents to just say "We just don't like it" instead of offering our reasons for being concerned? Fine. How about you just drop all the happy horseshit about farmers and just admit that you can't wait to drive your motorcycle on Big Island, EIS be damned.

Anonymous said...

"seem unable to offer any real reason for supporting it besides their own personal convenience and recreation."

aw come on...im callin you on that :)

but as to "no compelling data"... ya ill readily note i base my farmer comment on my simply having asked a few of them. they all wanted the option of exploring it

as to motorcycles...yes i guess as i think of it those guys would like to hot rod around on other islands. and yes purely recreational reasons seem less compelling

anyways, much easier to whip up SF opposition than to work on solving larger, more pressing, but less sexy county problems. so i understand

and thanks for not dropping the f-bomb on me?

Anonymous said...

This comment by Kimo Rosen really has me wondering about HIS sexual problems because in all his articles in the paper re HSF he refers to the ship as ╩╗voluptuous╩╗.
Oh icky icky icky, Rosen.

"c'mon you guys, the ferry is doing great and you know it.

Find another area to vent your sexual energies..."

Kimo Rosen

January 23, 2009 4:57 PM