Thursday, September 3, 2009

Safe Waters For Hawaii - Stealing quotes for toxic agendas

We have been following the ongoing battle in Hawaii to preserve two well known and first rate commercial shark diving companies from becoming casualties in what quickly devolved into a political witch hunt.

Both operations represent 40,000 shark tourism seekers each year to Oahu's North Shore and have been operating for close to a decade without incident.

A toxic campaign propagating the "fear of sharks" was developed by Rep Gene Wards offices early on when the issue of shark diving in inappropriate areas of Hawaii came to a head.

The website Safe Waters For Hawaii is the outreach communication vehicle for that campaign. The website was designed by staff members from Rep. Gene Wards office and features a series of affiliations and quotes taken from the Internet and from organizations who are now disavowing any involvement with Safe Waters For Hawaii.

One of these is the well known and respected International Ecotourism Society based in Washington DC. This is the quote Safe Waters For Hawaii lifted from their website without permission and without their knowledge:

"Do not touch living marine life such as coral and marine animals. Never harass aquatic animals. Do not feed marine animals."

International Ecotourism Society

What staff members from Rep Gene Wards offices failed to do was fact check affiliations on the Safe Water For Hawaii website and even ask permission to use quotes from many of the organizations listed.

The International Ecotourism Society website is in fact pro shark diving and pro Hawaii shark diving as seen in this summers news release. This news release was seen by many in the global $300 million dollar shark tourism industry - someone in Rep.Gene Wards offices seemed to have missed it either intentionally or by sloppy oversight.

TIES international membership base include Hawaii Shark Encounters.

The Good News

Rep.Gene Ward is a savvy politician. He is also a politician who understands the value of tourism in Hawaii and is now seeking sustainable solutions for both operations on Oahu. Unfortunately the website Safe Waters For Hawaii is still attached to his offices via staff members and remains a poor example of community outreach and of base fear mongering that serves little purpose beyond dividing communities and fostering deep seated anger between groups.

We have contacted the following organizations this week and they have asked Safe Waters For Hawaii to rescind their names and quotes on the SWFH website:

International Ecotourism Society
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)

Rep.Gene Ward might consider taking down Safe Waters For Hawaii in a good faith effort to move the conversation forward to safe and sustainable solutions to commercial shark diving in Hawaii. This website does not reflect his values, his offices values, or the values of many quoted here without their knowledge.

Let's begin to rebuild community trust and good will by removing fear, misquotes, and hate from the conversation of sustainable commercial shark diving in Hawaii.

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