Marianas Variety

Last updateFri, 24 May 2019 12am







    Wednesday, May 22, 2019-6:38:09A.M.






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Fishing and seafood festival on June 22-24

GARY Sword is a busy man. He runs the KKMP radio station with his wife, Rosemond Santos Sword.

He’s laying the groundwork for a Saipan-based fishing co-op. And, from June 22 to 24, he’ll be throwing the third annual Mariana Islands Fishing & Seafood festival at the Garapan Fishing Base.

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Gary Sword, left, Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres and Senate President Arnold I. Palacios talk about fishing.  Contributed photo

“Fishing is an indigenous practice and it’s being lost; people aren’t going fishing as much as they used to,” he told Variety. To Sword, fishing is much more than a pastime; it puts people back in touch with their roots, stimulates the economy, and even provides an impetus for ocean conservation: “Fisherman are important for tourism and they can be good environmentalists and stewards… because we don’t want fish with plastic in their stomachs.”

The Mariana Islands Fishing & Seafood Festival will offer Saipan families the opportunity to celebrate this long-standing tradition with fishing derbies, cook-offs, ocean education, and live music all day.

“Our primary goal is to get people interested in fishing again, especially young people,” Sword said. That’s why all five-person fishing derby teams must have at least one member under the age of 16. Teams can compete in five different categories: pelagic, deep bottom, shallow bottom, spear fishing, and talaya (casting net) fishing, which will be judged by total weight. Collectively, over $5000 will be awarded to derby winners.

The Fishing & Seafood Festival will also feature a chef cook-off in three categories; poke, kelaguen, and open fish. Every family has their own secret recipe for these traditional and nutritional dishes, making the event a treat for locals and tourists alike. The festival will provide the fish, leaving chefs, both amateur and professional, to provide the culinary talent. Last year, an amateur underdog beat out the pros to sweep both the kelaguen and poke competition. Over $3,000 in prizes has been set aside for this year’s winners.

A handful of conservation advocates will host information booths educating the public about ocean safety, health, and environmental protection. There will also be an hourly prize giveaway, games, food booths, and a bounce house.

For Sword, throwing the festival is an important step toward reviving fisheries on the island. He hopes it will highlight how fisheries enable “the use of the ocean for relaxation, family enjoyment, and indigenous activities” along with “fish export and nutrition, promoting healthy lifestyles, and the preservation of our ocean environment and fish stocks through responsible practices.”

“We have more ocean in our economic zone than land and we must utilize that for subsistence fishing and economic reasons,” he said. “Many thanks to our confirmed sponsors: CNMI Governor’s Office, Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, CHCC-Commonwealth Guidance Center, IT&E, DCCA-Arts Council, Imperial Pacific, Bank of Guam, Department of Commerce, Marianas Visitors Authority, CHCC-DPH- NCD Bureau, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Saipan Mayor’s Office and DLNR, and Fish &; Wildlife. Without our sponsors we could not put on this festival for free!”