Monday, May 26, 2008

Island Locator Article Now On Line

I found out today that Alexie over at Island Locator makes available articles from her magazine on her blog. This months cover story is on NMC's President Carmen Fernandez. Here's a link to the September 2007 issue where you can read the full article on me and see the photographs of Eye Doctor extraordinaire Dr. Mark Robertson. I've also updated the Proud Parents post to include the article.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bush Eyes Unprecedented Conservation Program - NPR Report

Today NPR is reporting that a move is afoot for President Bush to declare a series of marine monuments including the one being suggested here in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Like it or not, this is the beginning of some international press. I only hope it will be good, positive press for the CNMI.
I also take this as a step in the right direction. The CNMI has made it on a short list of places to be looked at and this, in my opinion, is a good thing. There are many benefits to the process moving forward even if, at the end of the day, the people of the CNMI determine they don't want it at this time.

Some will try to raise hairs on peoples backs by suggesting that Bush will do this even if the CNMI says no. I can only counter with this.....

I think it is highly unlikely he would do something that controversial since, by all accounts, he has a few other places lining up for his autograph. According to the NPR report Jack Sobel, a senior scientist at the Washington-based Ocean Conservancy confirms that among the specific criteria laid out by the White House was the need for areas where "they could do (it) without tremendous political blow back … [but] would have a conservation impact."

So for this to happen it must come from the people of the CNMI: the people who can see the benefits of such a designation and how it will improve the life of everyone who lives here or comes to visit for a week, a year or even a lifetime.
The administration is also quoted in the NPR report as saying public hearings will be held. Again, it is my belief that once the people of the CNMI see how they can have a seat at the table with the ability to make policy decisions, not only in drafting the proclamation but also with regard to the rules and regulations that will govern them, many of the fears being suggested will disappear.

To the average person here there will be much more upside to having a monument now than what is purely speculative with regards to commercial fishing and other resource extraction efforts some time in the distant future. Commercial fishing has a high likelihood of doing significant damage and the chance of any oil and gas, geothermal or magnesium module extraction occurring within the 200 mile US controlled waters is next to nil.

So if it happens, if the Bush administration does decide to take a serious look at the CNMI then I hope everyone will grab their chair and ask for a seat at the table, especially the Carolinian and Chamorro elders. Those that understand the ways of the past so that future generations can be sure they will be around for eternity. At this point, it seems the process is now with the White House administration which will sift through the various agencies and see if the Northern Mariana Islands are a place where resources will be spent to determine if it is possible to reach an agreement. Similarily the people of the CNMI owe it to themselves to take a look at this and use whatever is learned along the way as part of the path to their own plan should one be developed in the future or the White House comes calling again in 4 or 8 or 12 years......

A marine monument surrounding the 3 northernmost islands of Asuncion, Maug and Uracas can be a very good thing for the CNMI IF the people of the CNMI define what exactly that monument is. To those who really believe Bush will do this without your input then perhaps you should stand up and put your two cents in anyway so you can help determine exactly what the monument will look like should it become a reality.For more of my thoughts on this monument concept please click on the Northern Island Marine Monument tag / label below.

Maldives Set Record Tourist Numbers

I found this article while using the link referral program "Maldives Sees Unexpected Growth in Tourist in 2007 and 2008".

What's really interesting is that they say there has been a large increase in Asian tourists.

"The Maldives attracted the majority of their visitors from Europe, with most tourists coming from the UK, Italy, Germany and France; there was also a marked increase, however, in the number of Asian visitors, in particular from Japan and China".
That's quite interesting since the main attraction of the Maldives is the diving and beaches.
Managaha - Photo Dawn Hammermeister

I wonder if there is a way to win back some of those Japanese tourist traveling such a long distance to get to the Maldives. Of course we could just wait until those islands no longer exist due to the rising waters of our planet. But then again why wait?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Marine Monument - Ruth's Round Up

I've just gotten Ruth Tighe's permission to post her "On My Mind" article for today. Well at least the part about the Marine Monument. She has summed up the presentations given this past week quite well and this has allowed me to write something else which will be coming soon but first I've got to go get the kids!

Thanks Ruth for taking the time to address this issue!

On My Mind

What does "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" mean? First of all, it's a proverb - a short, frequently-used saying that expresses a basic truth or practical rule or principle.
According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, it means "It is better to accept what one has than to try to get more and risk losing everything." A web site, puts it: "It's best to go with what you have for certain than to wait for something better that you might never get." And the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd edition, 2002, says it means "The things we already have are more valuable than the things we only hope to get."
Its first occurrence is recorded in the 13th Century in Latin, so the principle would appear to have been around, at least in the western world, for centuries. Is there an eastern, oceanic equivalent? I don't know - I've never encountered one. That may well be because eastern and western beliefs are different. At the risk of appearing to stereotype, it would seem that Easterners are more inclined to gamble - and therefore would be more willing to wait for something, hope for something, in the future.
The relevance? HANMI president and Saipan Tribune publisher Lynn Knight used the phrase (though she mentioned only one bird in the bush) at this past Tuesday night fishermen's forum at American Memorial Park, in suggesting that the CNMI should take advantage of the on-going efforts to have its Marianas Trench declared a monument, rather than putting it off and hoping for a better offer some time in the future.
But if the Eastern/Asiatic/Oceanic mindset is more oriented towards taking risks, gambling, hoping uncertain future events will bring more benefit than present offerings, the hesitation and reluctance of community members to accept the opportunity to have a monument declared in the northern islands becomes more understandable. It's not necessarily the right or best or wisest reaction, but at least there's an explanation for the stance.
On the other hand, tropic peoples are known for living in the present, for not putting much store into planning for the future - because the present is certain, and who knows what the future will bring. Which would mean that one would expect the local community to say, "Yes! Let's go with what is before us, with what is being offered, and not just hope for more in the future."
What is being offered is an opportunity to develop the islands of Maug, Uracas and Asuncion into a world-famous attraction, an opportunity to boost the economy, an opportunity to look good in the eyes of the world - all with someone else's money.
Will that opportunity be there n years from now? Who knows? The bottom line, it seems to me, is whether the people of the CNMI have the vision to see the benefits the offer brings, the willingness to act on it without endless debate, the faith and trust in each other to work together to try make it happen.

It was encouraging - and refreshing - to hear William Aile, a native Hawaiian on island this week to share the Hawaiian experience with the establishment of its monument, as well as to put to rest some of the misconceptions about it that have circulated here. For example, the much-mentioned seven-year delay was not due to objection by the Hawaiians, but to fighting among federal agencies, he said.
While a few native Hawaiians were not happy with being denied fishing rights in the Hawaiian reserve, they were compensated for the cancellation of their permits. The vast majority of native Hawaiians, said Aile, were strongly in favor of their western-most islands being declared a monument, and were a driving force in getting it done.
He also was quite outspoken about the harm that the Western Regional Fisheries Management Council had caused in Hawaiian waters with its "optimization" approach - as opposed to an approach supporting sustainability. It killed our lobster fishery, he noted.
It was fascinating - and instructive - to watch as Aile made use of the negotiating skills he's developed over the many years he has devoted to the concerns, the rights, the needs of indigenous Hawaiians, in responding to often repetitive and already-asked questions at the fishermen's gathering on Tuesday, at the joint House/Senate session on Thursday, at the evening open session Thursday evening.
He stressed, over and over, that the Hawaii monument should not be used as a model; that the CNMI would be free to - and should - define its own terms and conditions of access and use, should the monument indeed become reality. The url for the Hawaii monument is here. It is well worth a look.
Unlike the national federal election campaign, which will not end until November of this year, the brou-ha about a trench monument for the CNMI may well end in another two-three weeks. Within that time period, according to Jay Nelson, Pew Charitable Trust representative, also on island, it will be decided (presumably by the White House Council on Environmental Quality) whether or not to officially consider the Marianas Trench and CNMI's northern islands as a candidate for monument status. If the decision is positive, federal officials will begin an assessment of its viability as a candidate. If the decision is negative, the discussions become moot.
In a manner of speaking, it is up to the people of the CNMI to decide whether a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. They can express interest and good will, or they can create so much noise and confusion/controversy that the bird will fly away.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marine Monument - Get Informed

Another day another letter to the editor in the local papers. I shouldn't really complain since for the last two or three days my own letters have taken up full pages in both the Tribune and the Variety. Click on the links to check them out here, here.

Just before I sat down to do a post today I thought I had better check the papers. I already knew I wanted to write something about the information sessions being conducted by Pew and to comment on some of the views (both positive and negative) expressed during the initial ones on Monday.
Above you can see Jay Nelson form the Pew Charitable Trust as he speaks at the fisherman's association forum held at American Memorial Park (AMP). Here he comments on the wide range of international exposure and positive press the people of Hawaii received when their monument was designated.
The crowd was not large but their was a clear mix of supporters and non-supporters. There was a mix of fisherman and non fisherman. I'm glad that everyone was able to listen to William Aila (below) and ask questions. I'm not sure everyone left completely happy but I think everyone other than the Wespac folks now have a better understanding as to the process involved and how the people of Hawaii embraced and even pushed for their own monument.
William is a long time harbormaster on the Waianae coast of Oahu and commercial fisherman. He is well-known as an advocate for indigenous Hawaiian rights and works closely with the group Na Imi Pono. In 2006 he ran for Governor of Hawai'i in the Democratic primary. William was intimately involved in advocating for the protection of the NW Hawaiian Islands for Native Hawaiian cultural and religious reasons from the late 1990's through today and remains active in the decision body empowered to manage the NW Hawaiian Islands. He brings to the table a varied and extensive background in fisheries management with ten years of service on various Wespac advisory panels.

He is here to give a true first had account as to the Hawaii experience and to answer questions. He is not hear to sell the proposal but rather let people make an informed decision based on what actually happened and not scare tactics.

It is obvious from the most recent letter to the editor by Richard Benevente Seman entitled Leave all conservation measures to the people of the NMI that some are very, very, very mis-informed. Please Mr. Seman come to the information session and open forum tonight. It is at AMP and will be hosted by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Harry Blalock. Mr. Seman, you owe it to your kids and in fact my kids to come out and hear the truth.

It would take me a very long time to completely dissect his letter today and point out all of the inaccurate statements but I'll focus on two.

1) He says that the people of the CNMI should be involved in the process in the beginning not before it starts, not when everything is already put together.

Mr. Seman this IS the beginning and this is the time that you and other local residents should be asking for a place at the table so you are ready when the process between the Federal government and the people of the CNMI actually starts. Right now Pew is here to assess the willingness of the people to look at the monument concept and to educate us as to what a monument designation means. It is then their job to report to the White House people at which time if things are favorable President Bush's people will contact ours and the process will officially begin. You can make the choice to kill this before it starts or you can reserve your seat at the table, it's up to you.

He goes on to state....
(Pew) Developed and drafted a proposed national monument for the CNMI without any collaboration with anyone;

Nothing is drafted, they are floating a concept. A concept that, if you open up your mind, you can develop into something you want.

I'll dissect this next entire paragraph from his letter with one picture and only a few words.

For 30 years since we have become a U.S. commonwealth, the CNMI have been able to enact constitutional mandates, legislate laws and promulgate rules and regulations in the name of CONSERVATION without the aid and delegation of OUTSIDERS. Our people have led in the region in enacting conservation measures for the protection and sustainability of our natural resources. Our commonwealth has more designated marine sanctuary, wildlife conservation islands and more prohibited fishing gear than any other government in our region. Simply said, we are proactive when it comes to the protection of our natural resources. We can honestly say that we do what we need to do to ensure that our resources are used sustainably for the sake of our future generations".

Ok two pictures....
The top one shows the fishing line that divers pull form our Grotto dive site nearly every day. The second one a typical pile of batteries we find along the shore line during our Marianas Dive clean ups. It's worth mentioning that the Grotto is a marine sanctuary and to suggest that it is well managed as such is coming from someone with a bag over their head. Even the people at DFW know it is not well managed. They complain of not having enough money to do it properly. A Marine Monument designation for the Northern Islands would see money available to properly manage a vast area of the ocean that is NOT managed now. To suggest the people of the CNMI can do it on their own without federal money is a recipe for disaster, or I suppose, success if you're a foreign fishing vessel looking to pillage other peoples waters.

As far as not needing outsiders. How about taking a look at the make up of people currently employed at DFW, CRM and DEQ. Although there are a number of good local people there are also, many, many non indigenous people who you actually depend upon for the services these agencies provide. The marine biologists from all these agencies are, according to your definition,"outsiders".

Perhaps if you used the monies appropriated for the marine monument by congress each year wisely the college could develop a marine biology program that would allow for the training of locals to do jobs currently held by the outsiders. Hmmmmmm what a concept.

Mr. Seman (and all those who buy into this crock) please come to the forum tonight at 6PM, American Memorial Park. You owe it to your kids.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Weekend of Books and Kids

On Friday afternoons, between 3:00 and 4:30PM, DEQ conducts a story hour for kids at Joeten-Kiyu Public Library. It is organized by the "soon to graduate" intern Somona as she sees groups from around the community educate kids on the importance of environmental protection.
This past Friday it was time for Marianas Dive. I had a small group of enthusiastic kids who were sharp in answering questions and knew quite a bit about the creatures we talked about. Two even won DVD's with their quick answers to tough questions!
I did a combination thing. We watched clips from The Underwater World of Saipan in order to help illustrate some of the marine behaviours we talked about as we read Annie Crawley' s book, "Ocean Life From A to Z". It's a great book and it has it's own DVD included!
After all was said and done I tried to instill some pride in the kids with regard to what our waters have and how our diving is really world class. Above I share with them a recently published article about Saipan diving in Sport Diver Magazine. February 2008, we made it into the top 100!
Click on the photo to enlarge. It's a good little snap shot of what we have to offer here and for them to see their home in a major publication was pretty cool for them too. They then wanted to watch more of the spotted eagle rays that are pictured in the story so we watched more of the Ice Cream dive!

Next Up on Saturday was the Rotary Club of Saipan's 3rd annual Parade of Books. I was the official photographer although there were no shortage of parents and cameras!
With Saipanda and Hard Rock dog guy taking the lead the participating schools first took a couple of laps around the Gym before preparing to preform their skits.

The crowd was large and appreciative of all the efforts, from the costumes to the actual choreography and performances.
The judging was apparently so tough they had to ask Mike Sablan to resign his post as public auditor just so he would not have any conflicts of interest as head score keeper. It looks like Mike has landed on his feet after leaving OPA!
There were a few classics performed like snow white and ....
a not so classic one by the kids from Tinian. They came all the way over and managed 3rd prize with a funny little story about a king who would not get out of the tub!In the end it was San Vicente Elementary and their performance of Frankenstein that raised the roof and allowed some very enthusiastic kids to take home first prize - 700 bucks and a big trophy too! A special thanks to NWA for a generous donation to make the event possible!

Congratulations to everyone who participated and to the Rotary for instilling the sense of importance for reading not only for the kids but for the parents too!

Marine Monument - Promising Results

The poll results thus far for the online poll at the Tribune.
Of course it could be argued that this does not mean much but that will likely come from the detractors. After all over 70% of support (if you include those who need more information) is rather telling. I imagine if Obama had that wide a margine, even that race would be over!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Marine Monument - Development

This article in the Variety yesterday was certainly promising. In it Senator Paul Manglona form Rota has introduced a bill to create a task force that will review the Pew Group’s proposed national marine monument.

Lets hope everyone will take a look at this and begin the process of understanding everything that is being considered.

By the way has anyone dove Rota! It's definitely worth the trip!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marine Monument - The Benefits / It's Not All About the Fishing

Today’s article by the WESPAC reps is another indication of how too narrow a view makes it easy to miss the big picture. They say we don’t need a monument, that they are doing just fine regulating our waters. The letter goes on to talk about all the regulatory changes WESPAC has had a hand in and although it’s an impressive resume, for the purpose of the monument, it really does not matter.

But, before I explain why, let me first say that, specifically with regards to the CNMI waters, I’m not familiar with anyone suggesting WESPAC has not done a decent job. I can’t honestly say one way or the other. It has been pointed out that WESPAC has had problems with their recommendations and practices in other areas of the world but, again, none of that really matters in our case because it’s not just a fishing issue!

Especially when you look at all the potential benefits. Some benefits are more tangible than others. Some speculative, some dependent on just how much funding comes along each year. Some will have a global reach, some will affect local lives directly on a daily basis. Some may not be noticeable for 100’s of years when the area in question remains one of Earth's untouched natural wonders.

Little of it has anything to do with fishing.

Yes fishing is an issue. Or rather how we fish is an issue. Do we want commercial fishing fleets trying to sustainably harvest those waters or maintain them as they are for generations of islanders to experience as their ancestors once did? In my last post Marine Monument – Lets Talk eh! I tried to point out that it is more about balance and hedging our bets rather than pointing blame or fighting over turf. By allocating 1/3 of the asset to a certain management method while leaving 2/3 to be managed in a different way, we protect ourselves from the catastrophe that could happen should our current, all eggs in one basket, mentality fail.

Wait, I digress again. I said there was more to this than the fishing. That’s right, the benefits John’s been missing at the presentations and in the numerous letters written in support of the park.

1) Free, instant, worldwide recognition.
We are THE pin in the map. We won’t have the limelight forever but the pin will never fall out. To put this into perspective, I’ve sat in the room where MVA marketing people have looked at landing Survivor or the Amazing Race as their big ticket for our tourism industry. How do you think that would compare to National Geographic specials, Discovery Channel, hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, all with a positive spin. By the way, we will get this even if Congress didn’t fund a penny more than they do now and the “park” sat there as it does now.

But, this is just the beginning. What about when new scientific discoveries come from the increased research that is also likely. Imagine if one day it is a local kid from NMC (Northern Mariana College) who’s the first to discover a new species of deep-water nudibranch or films the mating ritual of gigantic squid from her submersible. I could go on and on about the increased and continued exposure this designation would bring, but there are many other benefits to talk about.

2) Protecting Our Planet – Conservation
Some don’t like this as a benefit. They see it as too fluffy and an environmental-Nazi like attitude. Or they just want to take it all now and don't care what they leave behind for their kids. But, luckily, as our planet suffers and the signs and symptoms become that much more obvious, more and more focus will fall towards how we can save what we have. To say it is becoming trendy to be environmentally conscious would be an understatement even now. Don’t think this type of thinking is important or that it can’t be positive for our islands then perhaps you need to sit down and have a chat with the President of Palau. He started the Micronesian Challenge and will be remembered forever for it. In fact, he may end up getting some sort of Nobel-type prize for his efforts in due time. I’m pretty sure designation of a marine monument site here would help the CNMI meet and exceed our own responsibilities for this challenge and perhaps even steal some of that spotlight from our neighbors.

3) Jobs
Yes jobs, real jobs. I realize this can’t really be promised until money is appropriated from Congress but two things have been pointed out by our Pew lobbyist during the presentations John’s slept through. First, the Congressional budgets being appropriated for the sanctuaries and the bodies that govern them have been increasing over the years and there is no reason to think this won’t continue. Hawaii received 18 million in its first full year. Shaking a stick at even half that seems pretty silly. Next, in each case where a monument or national park has been designated there has been construction of a world class, top-notch visitors interpretive center. In the case of the CNMI, this alone would be huge.

Given the distance to travel, it is unlikely that many tourists will actually venture to the physical monument boundaries. However, almost all visitors to our islands would pay to visit an interpretive center where among other things they would get to walk through a cross section of the Marianas Trench. If it were a free pass we’d still have the funding to run the center and jobs to offer our residents. MVA said there were 31,174 Saipan visitors last month. At 10 bucks a head that's $311,740 per month. But, you say, they won't all go. Ok lets take 150,000 a month, not including souvenirs and other ad ons, that's 1.8 million a year!

4) Increased research and opportunities for higher education.
It’s been seen in Hawaii already. Again, according to our Pew lobbyist, the number of research vessels conducting work there has significantly increased since their monument was established. NOAA sends a boat out here every now and again. It stops in port for a few days where crew get off while provisions and equipment for weeks out at sea are purchased and loaded. I don’t know exactly how much money each one of these types of surveys would bring in but something is better than nothing. Then again we just had a crew of 2-5 marine archaeologists on island for over a month and they ate out nearly every meal and rented condos at the Flame Tree Terrace so it really could add up to something more than nothing pretty damn quick.

Now imagine if the college could be on board with all of this. Along with the sense of pride that comes with being known for something special like the marine park, developing a world class marine sciences program would go a long way to ensuring kids graduate with sought after skills. Best of all once they graduate they wouldn’t necessarily have to go off island to find a job since they could be employed directly or indirectly through the park.

5) Submerged lands and co-management
I put this under a benefit even though this is one of the issues those against the monument are using to say it’s a bad idea. There was a court case back a number of years ago where it was ruled that the CNMI did not have jurisdiction over the waters out to the 200-mile limit. The state vs. federal fight over this has gone on with all the territories and the state of Hawaii. Nowhere has the state or territory ever gotten full control of the 200-mile limit. In the case of the CNMI right now, there is no ownership of the waters around the islands in question. The area is managed by Fish and Wildlife and the NOAA office here on Saipan and without a coast guard cutter it’s pretty hard for any of them to patrol, protect and enforce that vast an area.

Following a similar model to Hawaii the monument would be co-managed by the NOAA sanctuaries program and a local CNMI body. This would, in effect, give the CNMI a say in the waters it currently does not have ownership of. The status of the monument should also bring an increase in funding for protecting the area. Again no guarantees but do we really think they’ll designate a monument and then give us nothing? That’s kind of setting things up to fail, which I really don’t think is the intention. With the increased military build up in Guam I don’t think it would be a stretch for the Feds to agree to something that funds increased patrols in the area. I certainly doubt such a concept would be frowned upon by homeland security.

6) Cultural Preservation
This is always such an interesting concept. As cultures all around the world get swallowed up in the global mixing of the human race what defines a persons culture will become more and more difficult to determine and hang on to. If the idea is to preserve and nurture those things that are important to the indigenous peoples then they must be exercised and received by the younger generations with enthusiasm and pride. I didn't get to see a lot of the performances at this years Flame Tree Festival but, what I did see was many island cultural dancers going through the motions. When there is energy and pride these dances and the people performing them are a beautiful thing to watch. When there is no pride outside influences will win and no matter how strong the desire, otherwise traditional ways will become extinct.

Not that this next concept requires the designation of a monument but again it would make more sense with one. What if there was some type of voyage to the Northern island monument where traditional sailing and navigational methods were utilized and tested. In school, kids would eagerly take in what they could knowing they'll need the skills to make a journey of a lifetime. To fish for big fish along the way just as their grandpa showed them. Sound too corny and far-fetched? Maybe, but without implementing this type of concept it is only a matter of time before the traditional ways will be nothing more than black and white paper and a few color photographs thrown in for good measure.

7) High-end adventure tourism.
As I said earlier there is no reason to believe that the marine monument would see that many tourists enter its boundaries. However, depending on the final regulations and terms of use for the park it is possible that a profitable eco-adventure tourism program could be established or even the possibility of seasonal live aboard dive charters. Tourist paying for this kind of trip would likely be considered high end, just the type MVA is trying to market to now. Is it possible? Without a monument designation it would be a lot more difficult. It is a known fact that many potential tourists consider world heritage sites as a reason to venture to certain areas. This draw cannot be ignored especially in Japan, our largest tourist market. It should also not be ignored that there are many very well-off individuals that might just spend a bundle to put their own pin on their own map directly on top of us.

8) Where is Saipan?

Have you heard of the Marianas Trench Monument (MTM)? Yeah that’s right, in the pacific close to Japan! ....... You have heard of us then!

So, as you can see, even with just these examples it’s not all about the fishing. To the good folks at WESPAC please don’t take the loss of turf so personally. It’s not really that we all think you’re doing a horrible job; it’s just that we can all do better by looking at the bigger picture and perhaps even working together. The people of the CNMI deserve the opportunity to look at this proposal and make an informed decision.

Next up I’ll try to give my two cents worth on what I think is the biggest “issue” facing the monument as it tries to move forward into the psyche of the general public.

Why now!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Marine Monument -Opinion Poll

The Saipan Tribune has an opinion poll for the proposed Marine Monument. Take the time to vote even if you need more information and are undecided at this time!
You may be surprised how much your opinion matters!

Marine Monument - Lets Talk eh!

Finally! John wants to hear about the monument! He's been so busy raising his objections at all the presentations that he hasn't actually paid attention to what has been said! Such is usually the case when you’re so narrowly focused. Anyway, maybe there's hope for an open and honest dialogue after all! Now if we could only get him to stop blowing things so far out of proportion. I quote "They {Pew people} proclaim that their preservationist approach to resource management is the only way to save the world".

Really John, is that what we {supporters of the monument concept} are saying?

I like to look at the marine protected area more like an asset an investment banker may use when planning for retirement. We all know that despite gazillions of economic studies the only way to really be sure your investments will be secure over the long haul is to diversify and make regular contributions (dollar cost averaging). You don't put all your eggs in one basket as they say. Listening to only one market segment or belief system (such as tech stocks for example) does little to hedge your bets on the future. Guess wrong and you could be on the short end of the money train.

The same can be said in the fisheries debate. Despite many advances in research abilities the fact remains our oceans are too vast and complex for anyone to really understand all the relationships and what actually goes on down there on a global basis. Whether they believe in sustainable extraction or replenishing preservation no marine scientist will tell you they know enough to make bold predictions about what the resources will definitely look like generations from now. If they do they're feeding you a crock.

So back to the analogy. We could take the waters around our 15 islands (the asset) and invest entirely in the fisheries based line of thinking (WESPAC) as we do now or we could take a portion of it and diversify by putting some eggs (islands) into another basket. By having 1/3 of our EEZ as you like to refer to it under "protectionist" control and 2/3 under "selective extraction" control we are now hedged against an utter collapse of either system. Intuitively it might seem much more likely that a human regulated extraction system may be at greater risk of failure than say one in which mother nature is left to her own devices (as in the case of the monument) but, I digress.

In bringing John's over statement down to earth I don't think anyone is saying "preservationism" is the only way to save the world. I think there has to be a balance. Right now all our eggs (islands) are in one basket and regulated by one line of thinking. Can you say Enron?

Next in his letter today, John suggests doing a Google search for "pew anti fishing". I did and I've scanned the top five results. If that's what he’s looking to discredit Pew with he might want to make his point a little easier to find. Of course sometimes the best way to determine if a source is credible or not is to take a look at what they've done / said in the past and compare it to the present.

As many have done in this debate I did a Google search early on for “John Gourley Saipan”. At the time the link I'm about to refer was on the first page. Now, given John's popularity in the bloging world, it's been pushed back to page 3. Interestingly the current top result for "John Gourley Saipan" is now this blog!

Anyway, it's just easier if you simply cut and paste this title "The Impact of the Regulations Resulting from the Events of September 11th" into Google and click on the first item - be aware it's a PDF down load.

The document is a WESPAC report with plenty of references by Mr. Gourley. I don't want to type out the whole section about the CNMI nor do I want to misquote or take John's words out of context so please read the file - page 11 and 12. I find his remarks quite interesting considering his number one reason for opposing the monument in the first place is the restriction on commercial fisheries.

The same industry he speaks of in these terms...

"Fishing is certainly not one of the main contributions to the economy of the CNMI. ..... while the seas remain largely undisturbed by large commercial fishing ventures".

"Most of those who fish in the CNMI do so from smaller boats that stay within 20 miles from land. The main take by commercial, subsistence and recreational fishers is skipjack tuna"

“Despite the local fishers, CNMI must import fish {to supply demand}... If a local fisherperson has a good catch, they may not have any customers due to the previous agreements with importers”. (Gourley, 2002)

This is the best one...

“There is little incentive for Asian longline fishing vessels to port in Saipan because Guam is closer to the southern fishing grounds and has better facilities as well as cheaper fuel and re-supplying costs. At the moment there simply is not an adequate infrastructure for the transshipment of fresh tuna”. (Gourley, 2002)

Then writing about a failed commercial venture.
“.... they were unable to catch enough fish to make it profitable”.

“While there is a growing Japanese market for skipjack, the most commonly caught fish in the NMI, Gourley suggested that fight quality yellowfin and bigeye or processed loins would be the most profitable”.

Doesn’t this last one really stress the sound science used behind selective extraction decisions - NOT!

The rest of his statements clearly and completely contradict his current number one reason to nix the monument discussions all together and that is the protection of the commercial fishery. Come on John, let’s stop trying to scare everyone into thinking the park will prevent a lucrative commercial fishery. The bottom line is it has not been feasible to this day without a monument nor is it going to be feasible in the foreseeable future with (or without) a monument. The benefits of hedging our bets while creating world wide recognition as well as preserving a portion of the archipelago for future generations to enjoy in all it’s glory far out weigh the possibility that a few might make ends meet selectively fishing those same waters.

John’s second reason for his opposition revolves around the permanent elimination of drilling and mineral extraction from the park area. Again, I agree 1/3 of the EEZ is a large area but, it still leaves 2/3 up for grabs should it ever become feasible to actually extract something of value out of the waters that, currently by law, the CNMI does not own anyway.

Let's be slightly realistic shall we!

And finally, we come to the third reason why John cannot support the monument. He says it is not based on sound scientific study (data) and (Pew) “still don't have any significant justification for the designation of a National Monument in the CNMI”

It’s late I’m going to have to leave all the reasons Pew has given during the presentations to another post. They are numerous and in many cases very tangible. Worth discussing I’d say eh!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

DVD Review Makes My Day

Some days just get off to a better start than others! A few weeks ago I received this email letter in my inbox. It was a good day! I think I'll read it again today!

April 25th 2008

Dear Mr. Tripp,

This letter is in regards to my experience of seeing your DVD, “The Underwater World of Saipan.” I am a filmmaker in Los Angeles, who recently spent time filming a documentary in Saipan. My work has been featured on HBO, Showtime, PBS, and IFC as well as in theaters and film festivals internationally. I first found your DVD while researching my film. At the time I knew very little of Saipan and stumbled on the DVD while searching for more information and images of Saipan (which are, unfortunately, very difficult to find). I ordered the DVD and was absolutely blown away: stunning imagery, a great soundtrack, and a really user friendly menu that allowed me to appreciate the different locales that Saipan has to offer.

After visiting Saipan for my film and having my cameraman (who is an avid diver) spend some time diving and filming underwater, I am so appreciative that I came across the DVD and was assured that Saipan would be a great place to film above and underwater. Now that I have learned more about Saipan and Micronesia, I am convinced that the region is the world’s best kept secret. Very few people I meet on the mainland United States know anything about the CNMI and if they do, it is only regarding the US military history here. I think this is a real tragedy because it is such a beautiful place and because it is a part of the United States is much easier to travel to than a lot of other scenic destinations. Products like “The Underwater World of Saipan” could change that—it is the kind of thing people interested in outdoor activities, nature photography, and exotic destinations will stumble on over the internet and definitely be moved to purchase.

“The Underwater World of Saipan” convinced me both of Saipan’s incredible diving and that it is a fun and easy place to visit and spend time doing outdoor activities. Your approach to the film was both enticing and informational and something that I have since shared with many people. Going underwater with you is a mesmerizing experience that is only made better by his astute choice of music and well-edited and produced delivery. I have not seen anything else that better represents Saipan. It is a great tool to attract people to Saipan and I think the rest of the CNMI would benefit if your work was expanded to cover the greater CNMI in a similar caliber.


Alexis Spraic
Bunim-Murray Productions

Thanks Alexis, you've made my day. How about you, do you have a copy of the DVD. Wish to share your comments?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Marine Monument – Personalities & Politics

To get me started I will refer to Ruth Tighe’s “On My Mind” and her comments this week regarding the proposed marine monument. I quote.

“Perhaps the offer was not made in the most appropriate manner, did not include some of the key people, did not take the traditional approach, was not sufficiently forthcoming. But that is not reason enough to reject the project. It is, after all, the project that is important, has meaning, that offers hope, not others' missteps. What is being asked of the CNMI is that it be open-minded, flexible, creative and imaginative, willing to grasp a golden opportunity when it presents itself, to take advantage of an offer that would bring the CNMI international recognition and attention, attract tourists, stimulate the economy, help fishermen, and last but not least, help preserve and protect the marine environment so critical to the earth's health”.

She’s absolutely right. Everyone should strip this proposal down and examine it for what it is. To date, for many reasons, this has just not happened.

For one, a number of people don’t like the locally hired Pew coordinator or lobbyist if you prefer. No doubt Angelo O'Connor Villagomez can be cocky and arrogant. His sense of humor often easily missed, especially by strangers. The fact remains, nearly everything he has touched on this island after returning 2 years ago has turned out pretty darn well. He’s a big part of the success of both BCNMI and MINA and the countless projects, clean ups and education that has come from his role as island-wide motivator and coordinator. Much of the buzz of optimism that once ran through many of us willing to stick it out through these tough times was fed by the level of energy and “get it done attitude” that bursts from Angelo. Ultimately, he is young and passionate. A powerful combination that will lead to mistakes along the road to many more successes. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t already wish he could start over again on this one. No doubt with experience he will bring the lessons learned here to the next pot of success he boils. Angelo is an environmentalist through and through. In Angelo’s eyes this marine park is a “no brainer”.

Unfortunately this attitude, along with a time frame that most here would consider very short (especially given the current level of distrust between the CNMI and Washington) must be considered significant factors should this proposal not take flight.

As Ruth says, the bottom line is none of this should matter. If everyone were to take a fair and open look at what has been proposed thus far, the merits to keeping an open dialogue would be obvious.

The same could be said for Mr. John Gourley’s rapid and vocal opposition to the project, which, I must say, also smells of obvious vested interest. In the end it shouldn’t matter that John, for many years, has acted as an advisor and contact person (or lobbyist if you prefer) for the troubled WESPAC advisory council. It shouldn’t matter that WESPAC is a powerful, pro-fisheries regulatory body very much against any large scale no take or limited take zones under any pretense. Of course we can understand why, doing anything otherwise would ultimately undermine their own level of control of the world’s oceans.

Some might even suggest that a few high-powered fisheries folks won’t like the fact I’ve given so much credit to Angelo’s attitude and a time frame out of their own control as reasons for the possible demise of the proposal. After all it makes it look like they had nothing to do with it despite the obvious evidence to the contrary!

Even though none of this should matter we all know it does and after speaking briefly with Mr. Lino Olopai on Thursday and then reading his letter to the editor on Friday, I’ve come to appreciate just how unimportant the facts are and how instrumental both Mr. Gourley’s opposition and the missteps taken by Pew in attempting to fast track this concept have been.

Before I continue let me reiterate what I’ve said before about what I believe to be the view of most everyone here on Saipan. The concept of a marine park is, at the very least worth discussing and potentially (if done right) it is the best thing that has come this way in a long, long time. Unfortunately, the rhetoric and misinformation has been substantial and influential.

Lino has resigned from MINA stating that he cannot and has not from the beginning, supported the Pew approach. He mentions the MINA retreat where Jay Nelson first introduced the members to the project and how put off he was by their approach. I was there. There was a lot of conversation and debate as to whether this was something MINA wanted to spearhead and take on. The issue was not the establishment of a large marine protected area but rather MINA’s role in promoting it. Ultimately, the board felt it would be too politically hot a topic for a young NGO to deal with despite majority support for the concept. The board at the time decided (as I perceived it) to concentrate on building their successful track record by biting off smaller projects that could be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

What is most interesting to me now is to recall just how vocal and prepared John Gourley was for that meeting and how he was able to immediately play on the local distrust for the federal government. I recall Lino not necessarily being against the concept of a protected area but rather he didn’t like the idea of foreigners telling the local people how to preserve and protect their own environment. Understandably he didn’t like the idea being pushed by Gourley that the local people would lose control.

As I’ve gotten to know Lino one of the things we always seem to come back to in our discussions is his belief that the local indigenous peoples are best suited to be the stewards of the land and sea. He believes that they have the knowledge necessary to conserve and live by nature’s rules. While I believe this is true and should it be the case that only the indigenous islanders have influence on the resources, I would agree with him fully. However, the fact remains with each passing generation more and more of this knowledge once seen as critical for survival is being lost. In addition, as years pass the influence of outside cultures becomes more and more prevalent as seen in both the populous numbers and the deterioration of our environment. As a net result, over time, there is a decrease in local indigenous control and the ability to influence actions and behaviors of others.

When Lino said to me the other day, “the people of the CNMI can do this, we don’t need Pew”. I asked him what the plan is for those islands and for these islands we live on now. His response, to me said a lot. With a smile he half joked “None, we don’t have one”.

Well, unfortunately, with all due respect, the absence of a plan usually means things will not work out so well for anyone. What’s really frustrating to me is given all the issues and speculation regarding who would control the waters, who would co-manage it, how the regulations would be developed and enforced, who’ll pay for it etc, few now see how the monument would actually give them (the local indigenous peoples) far more say in the way things are to be managed than they have right now.

Would it not make sense to sit at the table and be a part of the discussions and give the indigenous peoples the opportunity to protect these waters the way they want to. If it takes 10 years of writing and re-writing regulations, is that not better than never getting started and leaving all control to outside forces? Should this process happen when elders like Lino are here to pass on their wisdom? Absolutely! This is just one more reason why the time to look at this is now. Ultimately if what we see and hear is not to our liking then simply say no and take the bits and pieces we do like and incorporate them into our own plan. Of course, by waiting we’ll also need to remember it will be our own money and not that of a large, well-respected, charitable group that will make any such plan a reality.

Unfortunately, as usual, scare tactics and dissemination of inaccurate information is no match for good old-fashioned discussions based on truth and mutual respect. If the opposite were true we’d still be talking and using whatever information comes from this proposal process to either make it happen now or to assist in developing a plan that is so desperately needed for the future.

The fact that both Angelo and John have vested interests in how all this turns out shouldn’t matter to any of us. The fact is we all have a vested interest! We all owe it to ourselves, our children and our children’s children to listen, get the facts and make an informed decision based on what is good for our planet and our quality of life here, now and in the future.

In real life, facts rarely compete in a world where perceptions rule. In the case of the proposed monument the public relations game is preventing the delivery of many tangible assets regardless of whether the monument becomes a reality or not. Killing the discussions now does no one any good unless, of course, your source of revenue is WESPAC-based.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Marine Monument - Why Kill It Now?

I've been struggling putting to paper all of my thoughts regarding the proposed marine monument. The reasons are many. The power keeps going out for one – another 3 hours today! A four month old and a two year old is also a factor! Daddy hood is exhausting and time consuming. Greatly rewarding but, in general it doesn't leave a lot of time to hide away and get into the writing groove and that's what it takes for me. Partly because I'm not very good at it and partly because I always feel the need to wrap my head around the big picture, digest it, find out what I don't know, (from people and sources that do know) and then formulate my own opinion. The biggest obstacle in this case however, is clearly the complexity of the issues at hand including the personalities, politics, distrust, greed and emotions that come along with them.

On the other hand conversation is a completely different story for me. I've shared my thoughts with many, many people over the past 2 or 3 weeks. Whether it was the revolving door at our booth during the Flame Tree Arts Festival or as a result of the countless meetings, presentations and sales calls I've made since getting back from Canada. In turn people I've talked to share their own thoughts and concerns for me to digest. The cross section of individuals providing the dialogue runs the spectrum. From conservationists, commercial fisherman, artists, professional types like lawyers and doctors, business and political leaders (including those charged with guiding our tourism industry) to the delivery clerks and receptionists at Joeten and hotel gift shops.

The overwhelming feeling I get is that everyone, including those currently opposed, can see the many benefits that could come from keeping the proposal on the table regardless of the final outcome. It is true that nearly everyone also believes they require more information to make a decision one way or another. Of course there are a few people out there who would like to see the concept die before it’s given a chance to see the light of day. As is always the case in life some folks tend to put their own personal agendas ahead of the greater good so it’s always important to consider the motives behind the rhetoric.

Each morning as I read the papers and blogs discussing this topic my own article gets bigger and bigger. With letters to the editors pouring in at this crucial time I realize how important it is to get my own thoughts on paper. This in part comes from the fact that few I’ve talked to disagree with my position and because I know most of these people are unlikely to take the time to make their own opinions heard. It’s also about the kids. Sitting back and doing nothing is not the kind of footsteps I want mine to grow up following in.

So to all those that are so opposed to opening up a dialogue and moving forward with the process I ask you, what is the rush? What is the rush to kill this thing before it even gets started? Why not allow the process to continue and examine the proposal in full while taking advantage of the opportunities being presented. Think about it. Even if it is ultimately rejected everyone, whether for or against, would gain something from the economic and environmental studies alone not to mention the proposed media expedition.

Could you imagine how much MVA and our tourism industry would benefit from having images, both topside and underwater of these Northern Islands - at no cost to them! Of course this does not even consider the amount of positive international press that would be gained should the monument become reality. It is solely based on MVA developing collaterals designed to sell the Marianas as a destination in future marketing campaigns.

What about the scientists at DEQ, CRM, and DFW? Even if the studies were biased (as studies of this nature often are) wouldn’t there be at least some useful information that these professionals could use. Again, at no cost to them or the taxpayer!

I’m also fully aware that the time frame argument goes the other way. What’s the rush to do this now? Hawaii had 7 years why do we have to decide this before Bush leaves office? Won’t there be another chance?

As luck should have it just as I was beginning to write some thoughts to these excellent questions I received Ruth Tighe’s “On My Mind”. Once again Ruth points out exactly what I was thinking so rather than try and rephrase it I give you what she wrote today.

Let me try to dispel some more of the misgivings. There is concern that not enough time has been provided for a thorough discussion, that people feel pressured. It is true that not enough information has been made readily available. Much has been there, but one has had to dig for it. But can the issue be postponed? Will the opportunity still exist months or years from now? In theory, yes. In actuality, I doubt it.

What we have, at the moment, is an out-going president who wants to add a jewel to his crown, so to speak; a respected, moneyed, international non-profit dedicated to the environment willing to underwrite costs; and a site not yet spoiled by greedy commercial fishing interests. Will those three factors occur simultaneously again? Not likely.
There is concern that the declaration of a monument through the Antiquities Act is the wrong mechanism. The alternative is a declaration by an act of Congress. Don't we all know how long that can take? How hazardous, risky, the route is? How many detours and false trails, how much excess and unwanted baggage, that can bring with it?
It may seem backward, but in this case, as I understand it, the time for negotiation comes afterwards. The President declares a monument, and the rules and regulations follow. And that's where the CNMI will have its opportunity to define what it will or will not accept.

Ultimately our leaders and the people of the CNMI may determine the proposal is not right at this time (or even in 6 months time). Should this be our position at the 11th hour even President Bush wouldn’t run this down our throats. He's already unpopular enough. Instead he'll ultimately pick somewhere that has welcomed the idea with open arms from the beginning. In the mean time what is the harm in working with Pew and the federal government over the next few months to get as much out of the process as we can?

Is it fear? Fear that if all the information is allowed to get into the hands of the people that the concept of rejecting the proposal will become too hard to swallow? If that’s the case I guess I can understand why a few, including some powerful types, might want to see this die now!

What a shame that would be.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Beach Road Magazine May Edition

Last night at the underwater archeology presentation Susan passed me a few copies of this months Beach Road Magazine! This is the second month I've shot the cover model. For a look at last months edition check out the photos of Karen Hartman here.

This months cover girl is 18 year old Heather Calderwood of Navy Hill.
Being only the second month I've done this for Beach Road I've been giving them all of the photos taken during the shoot and then letting them pick what they want to use. At the same time, after each shoot, I pick 7 to 10 of my favorite shots and wait to see if any of them match the editors picks. Last month we chose many of the same, this month not a single one were identical!

So rather than post the shots in the magazine like I did last month, here's a few that I thought were her best shots. You'll have to pick up a copy of the magazine and do your own comparison!
The cover shot was taken at the last command post using a Lexus convertible in preparation for the big car rally Beach Road will be having this month. The rest of the shots were taken at Pau Pau beach. Again, despite the wind, and intermittent sunny periods there are worse ways for me to spend the afternoon. Thanks for your patience Heather and good luck with your future goals!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Underwater Archaeological Survey

Underwater Archaeological Survey of the Saipan Invasion Beaches:
The Latest News from the Field

A Free Public Lecture
Monday, May 5, 2008
6:00 p.m.
Visitors Center Theater
American Memorial Park

Archaeologists Jason Burns and Michael Krivor of Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc. will present the preliminary results of an underwater survey they recently completed under contract with the CNMI Division of Historic Preservation.
The survey targeted the waters off the western coast of Saipan including those adjacent to the World War II invasion beaches stretching from Agingan Point to Quartermaster Road.

These beaches and the adjacent lagoon and offshore waters were designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. National Park Service in 1985.

Burns and Krivor will show photographs of the various historic resources that were located during their survey including World War II-era ships and airplanes. They will also answer questions from the audience.

The lecture, co-sponsored by the NMI Council for the Humanities and the Division of Historic Preservation, is open to the public and free of charge.

For more information about the project and the team visit the Museum of Underwater Archeology web site and my previous post on Saipans Underwater Historical Trail following the lecture by Jennifer McKinnon at Porky's.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wyland's Not Coming!

This update just in although I think the folks at MINA knew this last week!
Famous artist Wyland will NOT be coming to the CNMI. You can read more about this potential project gone bust here.

According to MINA we were not chosen as one of the locations leading up to the Olympics where Wyland will paint his 100th mural. He apparently offered to come and do a sculpture following the games but who knows.

Let the record show that nearly 80% of respondents felt the idea of Wyland coming here was a good idea!

In an email to me Mr. Sayon, the head honcho at MINA, said they were going to look at the concept of using local artist! We certainly have a few that could do a wonderful job so why not! I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Beautify CNMI - Round Two

The people behind the Beautify CNMI coalition wish to let everyone know they are tired of picking up trash. They're not going to stop because keeping the Commonwealth looking clean and pristine is our only hope for attracting tourists. It also makes for a better place to live and work! So for all of you out there that still think it's OK to litter or that all these beach clean ups are fun - think again.

We're tired of picking up trash. If no one litters we can turn our efforts to something more rewarding like painting over the graffiti! Hmmmmm another PSA perhaps!


Here's the newspaper article from the Tribune regarding this new commercial!

Beautify CNMI to air new commercial next week

In an effort to raise awareness on the effects what littering can do to the islands, Beautify CNMI is scheduled to air its new commercial next week on KSPN 2.

The commercial which took two weeks to complete, depicts three young characters who ultimately miss out on doing some fun things because they are helping to keep the islands beautiful by participating in the BCNMI clean ups.

The narrator states that three characters could not attend soccer practice, a birthday party, or a baseball game because they were picking up other people's trash. The commercial also reminds the community that littering is illegal in the CNMI.

The script, which was written by CVI-Creative Visuals International president Cory McRae, was submitted to Beautify CNMI proponent Cinta Kaipat and volunteer Angelo Villagomez for input.

McRae specializes in video production, promotions, and media consulting. Before coming to Saipan, he worked for the FOX Network in KansaS City, MO, as a promo producer.

McRae, who produced the commercial, worked in collaboration with Mike Tripp president of Mike Tripp Productions.

According to Tripp, the reason for the commercial is the importance for people to realize that many people give up countless hours of their own time to try and pitch in an help tidy up the environment.

“They are trying to make the CNMI a better place to live and visit. Ultimately with tourism our number one industry we need to keep our attraction beautiful,” Tripp said.

McRae used video that he shot from a baseball game, birthday party and soccer games.

The videos were then edited together with still shots of children that would help bring across the message that because people continue to litter, it affects the community.

Adults and children “are missing fun activities because they are cleaning up the trash left behind,” McRae said.

Tripp said that every time an individual litters, “they not only disrespect the environment but they also take away from our islands economy. After all, if the litter continues, it is only a matter of time before all those precious tourists find a more desirable tropical island destination. Then what do we do? Thus, littering is everyones business and needs to stop.”

Tripp added that Beautify CNMI wanted to dispel the rumor or sentiment that those participating in the BCNMI clean ups are doing it because it is fun.

“In fact one of the things we discussed when developing the concept was the fact that the first commercial looks like everyone is having too much fun,” Tripp said.

He said one of the frustrations everyone who goes out to clean up the island week after week has to deal with is the fact that the littering never stops.

“Some think that those who litter may do so in part because they know someone else will clean up after them. We wanted to send a strong message that everyone at BCNMI would actually rather be doing something other than cleaning up trash in their spare time. We also wanted to remind people that littering is illegal,” he said.