Sunday, August 31, 2014

Growing Old Together


Edz turned 30 last week.  That's not something that happens every day.

It has not been a short celebration.  It has been a celebration spread out over several weeks.  I feel that for at least a month now, whenever she wants me to do something, whether it be wash the dishes or purchase something pink, the ask has been strengthened with, "but it's my birthday!"

We struggled with where we wanted to spend the actual day of celebration.  We thought about going to New York, then checked if I could get anywhere cheaply using frequent flier miles, but in the end we decided to spend the weekend in Virginia Beach, which happens to be home to the closest Jollibee.

We left on Saturday morning and seven long hours later we pulled into the Marriott parking lot.  Our plan was to go meet up with former Saipan friends at a local Filipino restaurant, but when we saw the room, we decided it would be better to have a party at the hotel.  I'm not really sure why, but the hotel upgraded us to an oceanview suite.  It was amazing!

The Filipino Wives Club showed up about an hour later, with lumpia, cake, pizza, and babies in tow.  And then the photo shoot commenced.  I posted a few more of my favorites to The Saipan Blog Facebook page.

The party raged until 10 PM.  What can I say?  One of the husbands had to work in the morning and most of us get tired after two beers now.  And the babies were tired.

The next morning we got up really late and then met up with everybody at Jollibee, where we spent $100 on spaghetti, fried chicken, and halo halo.  I had my first SPAM Little Big Bites.  Amazeballs.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pacific Leaders Protecting the Ocean

One of the most exciting developments in conservation recently has been the drive to create national park-scale marine protected areas.  The designation of super-mpas was an issue I worked on 6 years ago when I led the grassroots campaign to build public support for the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  It is exciting to see the movement spreading across the Pacific today.

If you want to know about these protections, there are many hard working, dedicated people helping to put these protections in place.  Those people can offer insight to the global movement to protect the ocean.

Palau is currently working on a plan to close down 80% of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to commercial fishing.  President Tommy Remengesau has promoted his plan all across the globe, including on one of the world's biggest stages, the United Nation's General Assembly.  The plan was a major focus at last month's Pacific Islands Forum.  Nearly everyone who reads this blog knows someone from Palau.  If you want to know more about Palau's plans to protect fish stocks for local people, you should ask them about it.

The Cook Islands also made a big deal at the Pacific Islands Forum of their plan to create a marine park over more than half their EEZ, which is four times as large as California.  The plan was first announced in 2012 and should be in place by next year.  My friend Jess Cramp, international shark hero, is one of the many people working on the plan.

Kiribati has been working for 10 years to create the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. According to the Star Advertiser, Kiribati President Anote Tong, "hopes the shuttering of those 157,000 square miles to industrial fishing practices can be seen as a key early step to creating more widespread conservation zones across the Pacific -- a way to help the ocean's dwindling fishing stocks recover for sustainable, future use."  If you have questions about what is taking place in Kiribati, you can ask my good friend Laurie Peterka about it.  She's there as I write this working with the government to protect sharks.

And why does this matter?  The creation of super-mpas is being discussed in the pages and comments section of the Marianas Variety today.  This particular marine protected area is thousands of miles away from Saipan and does not affect anyone living there; therefore I will reserve comment lest my words on this blog be confused as representing my employer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Famous on Shark Week

No, I've never actually been on Shark Week. And yes, there are other shark conservationists who get more print than me. But I'm having my own 15 minutes of fame during Shark Week this year.

I talked to NPR earlier in the week about about a restaurant serving mako tacos. Nearly every shark that interacts with fishing gear is threatened or near threatened with extinction, including makos which are assessed as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. I thought I'd be clever and compare the conservation status of makos to other species. I could have used lions, cheetahs, or elephants, but went with polar bears. "But you wouldn't want to eat polar bear tacos," he says.

I have a second quote later in the story:
Catches of most other shark species are at all-time lows, according to Villagomez. He says this is not because of decreasing demand but decreasing shark numbers. "We've hit 'peak shark,' " he jokes.
The first quote was later picked up in stories in Jezebel and DailyDot. 13 quoted words total. Fame rules.

I'm also quoted in a story from Smithsonian Magazine today:
"Sharks are worth more alive," says Angelo Villagomez, manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts' global shark conservation campaign. "Sharks are fished because they have value in fisheries, but a lot of tropical island locations, especially holiday destinations, have found that they can get a lot more out of their resources with dive tourism."

"Not only should [tourists] be conscious that the divers are operating under best practices, but they should think about spending their money in countries that are taking the time to protect their sharks and other animals," Villagomez says. Choose to visit a place with a dedicated shark sanctuary, which means that the country has taken policy measures to ensure shark conservation. Villagomez suggests taking a trip to Palau, which became the first place in the world to create a shark sanctuary in 2009. Tourists who swim with sharks within the sanctuary pay a number of taxes, which are funneled back into conservation and the local economy. The high fees also help control the number of tourists. "It’s not perfect, but they’re taking steps in the right direction," Villagomez says.

I bet you didn't know that I moonlighted as a Palau tour promoter, did you?  And although it has nothing to do with Shark Week, Ambrose Bennett mentioned me in one of his rants this week.  Now that's real fame!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Week Gold


Holy moly, Shark Week puts a lot of social media attention on sharks.  Last night I couldn't sleep due to my jetlag, so I scheduled a Shark Week tweet on Shark Defenders every hour using Hootsuite.  I tagged each post with #SharkWeek.  Then I tweeted during the 4 PM showing of Shark Fight and the 8 PM showing of Air Jaws: Fins of Fury.  Shark of Darkness: Submarine Returns was so terrible I stopped watching after about 10 minutes.  I tweeted some snarky things about the show, and that's when things started to take off.

Maybe it was because David Shiffman was on an airplane and there was a giant gaping hole in the Shark tweeterverse, but my Twitter feed exploded.
If this keeps up, Shark Defenders will surpass 10,000 followers by the end of the week, thus making me 0.02% as popular as Justin Bieber.