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.