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Seman says military should compensate NMI for loss of fishing areas

A LAWMAKER who is also the interim president of the local fishermen’s group on Saipan believes the military should compensate the CNMI for the loss of its “best fishing area” in the Northern Islands.

In an interview on Friday, Rep. Richard B. Seman, R-Saipan and president of Northern Marianas Fishermen Marketing Association, said if the U.S. Navy extends the restricted area and danger zone around Farallon de Medinilla, there will be no way for local fishermen to enter it “so the CNMI people should be given some sort of mitigation or something to compensate for the anticipated losses from these [military] exercises.”

Richard Seman

Seman said he has already offered his suggestion to representatives from the U.S. Navy who were here late last year to meet with then-Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and local fishermen.

In that meeting, the lawmaker said questions were raised about what the military could do to mitigate the economic impact of increased military activity around FDM which Seman described as the “best fishing ground” for the emperor fish which is locally known as mafuti.

Seman said the extension of the restricted area from three nautical miles to 12 nautical miles and the danger zone from 10 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles “may not be a big deal if they, the military, seldom practice there.”

Unfortunately, he added, over the last three years, the military exercises there have become almost a weekly event.

“Every week I get a notice or announcement for an exercise unlike five or six years ago, when they probably did it once a month or once every three months,” he said.

“So with that kind of regularity, the military exercises basically put the fishermen completely out of the area,” he added.

When asked what kind of mitigation or compensation to local fishermen he was referring to, Seman said fishermen now have to go farther north. And for them to be able to do that, they will need the kind of vessel that can bring them farther, allow them to benefit from their own marine resources and bring them back home safely. He said they would need a brand new vessel with state-of-the-art equipment and a new docking facility.

Seman is the third lawmaker who has commented on the U.S. Navy’s proposal for the Mariana Island Range Complex.

Senate Floor Leader Ray N. Yumul, IR-Saipan, and Rep. Mario Taitano, IR-Saipan, have expressed opposition to the military proposal.