Marianas Variety

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    Tuesday, October 23, 2018-10:17:00P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Good luck, One Marianas Summit

GOVERNMENT representatives from the CNMI and Guam are meeting this week at a One Marianas Summit to discuss free trade, food security, health, tourism, homeland security, and labor.

These are important topics for our community, and I am glad that they are being discussed. However, I find it interesting that a conference on a united Marianas doesn’t include a mandate to discuss culture and conservation, arguably the two most significant matters connecting our people across the archipelago.

The loss of culture and natural resources are often linked, and the causes of both are rooted in unsustainable development and colonization. Food security and health, both topics being discussed at the summit, depend heavily on a healthy environment. If we have healthy lands and ocean, we will have healthy food and activities, giving us healthy people. Our culture is enriched by the bounty of the land and sea when it is gathered sustainably and when it adheres to the values of our indigenous forebears.

Sadly, marine protection in the CNMI and Guam lags behind the rest of the American Pacific. The Marine Conservation Institute audits marine protected area coverage across the United States and the world. They have found that Hawaii and American Samoa protect 22.7 percent and 8.8 percent of their state and territorial waters, respectively, and that the CNMI and Guam only protect 0.22 percent and 0.14 percent of our local waters, respectively. No new marine protected areas have been created in the CNMI or Guam in nearly 20 years. In contract, Governor Ige of Hawaii is committed to increasing Hawaii’s coverage to 30 percent. In fact, much of the world is moving towards protecting 30 percent of the ocean.

That we are behind the Hawaiians and Samoans should not come as a surprise (We also lag behind the Palauans, Micronesians, and Marshallese). Scientific studies conducted in Guam and the CNMI over the last several years have found that our people have perceived declines in our ocean health. The same studies have shown that our people want more ocean protections.

The science of marine protections is well studied and the benefits are easy to predict. Marine protected areas that are well designed and managed result in more fish, bigger fish, higher biodiversity, and higher biomass. The benefits of marine protections also benefit tourism, as visitors from far off lands come to our islands to experience first-hand our beautiful beaches. It is by no mistake that Managaha and Tumon Bay, both marine protected areas, drive our local tourism economies. We need more places like this, and our people expect more of them.

I wish the delegates at the One Marianas Summit success in finding solutions to these important issues, and I ask they keep the land, the ocean, and the culture of our people at the forefront of their minds during their discussions.

ANGELO O’CONNOR VILLAGOMEZ
Washington, D.C.
www.taotaotasi.com