Saturday, June 09, 2007

Retreat from the Retreat

Before I get into a detailed description of our different seminars in Majuro, I want to talk about our field trip. Albon Ishoda, President of the Marshall Island Conservation Society in Majuro arranged for all of us to spend Thursday afternoon on one of the less inhabited islands of Majuro, Eneko. He called Eneko a "resort island," but when I think of the word "resort island," I think of Cozumel or Cancun. Eneko was more like Managaha with some people living on it.

Eneko MajuroAlbon, under the prodding of Ada Eledui, Director of the Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement of the Koror State Government in Koror, Palau, also arranged for some of us to go trolling. I was one of those people. He hooked us up with a local sports fisherman named Sherwood. In addition to Ada and me, Julio Carcamo, Director of The Nature Conservancy Honduras & Nicaragua Program, and Fabian Iyar of the Pacific Institute of Coral Reef Centre in Palau went fishing.

Angelo VillagomezWe met up with our boat at the dock near Hotel Robert Reimers. The little shop next to the dock sells XXXX from Australia for $1.75/bottle. Julio and I both bought six beers to down while we were out catching Blue Marlins.

From the dock we drove south towards "The Bridge."

Majuro BridgeI don't know if "The Bridge" has a name, but at about 4 meters tall, it is the highest point on Majuro.

From the bridge we turned left and started on a counter clockwise trip around the atoll. Immediately past the bridge we ran into a huge school of fish (flocks of birds are a sign of fish just below the surface of the ocean).

black and brown noddiesEven though there were thousands of birds, we didn't catch any fish.

We did, however, run into a pod of dolphins. As we rounded the atoll we watched as they jumped out of the water on both sides of the boat. This was only the third or fourth time that I've seen wild dolphins, so even if Dolphins = NO Fish, I was happy.

The further away we got from downtown, the less development we saw. Eventually we were just passing island after small island with little or no development.

Although Ada was visibly agitated, I didn't mind that we weren't catching any fish. Come on, we were out in the Pacific on a boat...and we had beer! Does life get any better than that? Of course not! Then, after we saw our second pod of dolphins, I decided that our "fishing" trip was a success.

I managed to capture some video of the second pod:

I threw in some music and some video of some wildlife on Saipan to round out the movie.

Here are some pictures of each of us "fishing:"

Julio CarcamoAda EleduiFabian IyarAngelo VillagomezIf you haven't figured it out by now, we didn't catch any fish. You know how environmentalists say "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures?" That's not supposed to apply to fishing.

Sherwood took us straight to Eneko. He took us close to shore and then called over a smaller boat to take the four of us to shore. A few of the retreat participants were already on the beach, having spent the afternoon there.

Eneko VolleyballBeach Combers: Romina King, NOAA Coral Reef Management Fellow in Guam, Bill Raynor, The Nature Conservancy Micronesia Program Director in Pohnpei, and Joe Aitaro, Palau Protected Areas Network Coordinator wave to the other retreat participants as they get off the boat at Eneko.

MIC arranged for us to have a sunset picnic on Eneko. Some of us had spent the afternoon fishing, some of us went to Eneko for the day, and some of us came to Eneko later in the afternoon. I think most of them had been shopping for gifts to bring home to their families.

The boatload of people who decided to join us later arrived about half an hour after the fishing trip guys.

Majuro BoatAgain, in order to get from the big boat to the shore, a smaller boat had to go out and get people. The small boat could only handle about three people at a time, so while the large boat unloaded, I went for a walk around the island.

I cut straight across the atoll. From the lagoon side to the ocean side was only about 300 meters. It was probably one of the widest sections of the atoll. No kidding.

Eneko ForestMost of the trees were coconuts and pandanus, with a few iron wood trees here and there. There were breadfruit and other fruit trees, too.

There was no development on the ocean side of the atoll, probably because the lagoon side is safer from storms and storm surge. The beach wasn't as good for swimming either. There was a small reef flat extending out about 50 meters with what I expect was open ocean beyond.

I got a couple classic shots of a Pacific Island beach:

Eneko BeachEneko BeachEneko BeachI found a turtle shell lying on the beach, too:

Eneko Turtle ShellEveryone was off the boat by the time I circled around back to the picnic site. Some people were cooking the hot dogs, some people were playing volleyball, and everyone else was drinking beer.

We had a great time talking, drinking, listening to Bill Raynor play the guitar and sing, eating, and drinking.

I'm the one with the beer: (from right to left) Tina Fillmed, Executive Director of Yap State Environmental Protection Agency in Yap, FSM, Joe Konno, President of the Chuuk Conservation Society in Chuuk, FSM, Alissa Takesy, FSM Protected Areas Network Coordinator for FSM Department of Economic Affairs in Pohnpei, FSM, and me, Chairman of the CNMI Jedi Party.

The Pohnpei Elvis: Bill Raynor on the strings and vocals!

Bill's biggest fans: Madison Nena, Chairperson of Kosrae Conservation & Safety Organization, Ricky Carl of The Nature Conservancy, and Albon Ishoda.

The two MINAs: Mariana Island Nature Alliance (MINA) Chair Jesse Borja and NOAA Fellow Romina King (Mina).

Back on the boat: Everyone has a good laugh on the boat trip back to downtown. That bright funny looking thing on the floor is a pandanus fruit. The Marshalls have over 100 varieties of pandanus and most of the restaurants serve pandanus juice. Cool!

After the picnic we took the small boat three at a time to get back to the big boat.

What a great afternoon! My vote for the next retreat is to have two afternoons of retreats. What do you say, Mae?