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    Saturday, December 7, 2019-5:16:39A.M.






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Pagan trip part of proposed open-ocean aquaculture project, say former lawmaker and her husband

THE recent boat trip to Pagan involved study and research on the proposed open ocean-cage aquaculture project in the commonwealth, and the trip was founded by a “small grant” accessed by Guihan Pasifiku, the project proponent, according to former Rep. Rosemond B. Santos, who is part of the project.

Americopters, one of the investors interested in the aquaculture project, brought the group back to Saipan in a helicopter over the weekend, Santos added.

Former Rep. Rosemond Santos and husband Gary Sword answer media inquiries regarding their proposed open-ocean aquaculture project.  Photo by Andrew O. De GuzmanFormer Rep. Rosemond Santos and husband Gary Sword answer media inquiries regarding their proposed open-ocean aquaculture project. Photo by Andrew O. De Guzman

“That was a gift. There are good people in this world,” Santos said.

Santos and her husband Gary Sword invited the media to the KKMP radio station yesterday morning to discuss Guihan Pasifiku and the open-ocean, cage-aquaculture project.

The couple declined to answer inquiries about the participation of Chief Prosecutor Shellie Neal, who joined the boat trip together with James Ayuyu, an investigator from the Attorney General’s Office.

“I wouldn’t comment on any of those questions,” said Santos, when asked about Neal’s participation in the Pagan trip which included Department of Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Ambrosio T. Ogumoro, a criminal defendant being prosecuted by the Office of the Public Auditor.

The couple said Ogumoro’s boat was chartered and the funding came from a $40,000 federal grant from the Marine Conservation Plan through the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Sword said their group is considering three locations — Saipan, Tinian, and Pagan — where fish cages can be deployed. They said they expect a hundred potential job opportunities once the project shifts to commercial production.

The initial phase includes logistics, scoping, research and study in order to avoid impacting the lagoon, the couple explained. This stage is expected to be completed within 60 days, they said.

Guihan Pasifiku, the couple said, has submitted proposals to U.S. Departments of the Interior, $230,000; Agriculture, $645,000; and Health and Human Services, $800,000 to cover at least five phases of the project.

According to its media handout, Guihan Pasifiku’s goals are:

• Implement the 2011-2015 CNMI aquaculture plan for open-ocean aquaculture.

• Build the economic resilience of the CNMI community through viable fish exports.

• Make available locally grown, healthy protein for the CNMI community.

• Increase food availability through restoration of the reefs with farmed fish.

• Increase the food security of the United States and the CNMI communities.

• Increase and strengthen local, regional, national, and international markets.

• Develop exports as a means to reduce shipping costs into the CNMI.

• Develop a diverse group of well-trained scientists, educators, extension specialists, and producers with expert skills and a breadth of knowledge to address sustainable aquaculture production in the CNMI and foster growth globally through international partnerships.

Joining Santos and Sword in Guihan Pasifiku, the local indigenous non-profit organization implementing the project, are Commonwealth Ports Authority vice chairman Benigno Sablan, former Lt. Gov. Diego Benavente, and aquaculture specialist Michael Ogo of Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research, Extension and Education Service.