I learned it from my father and I know these guys learned it from theirs.
Even so, times have changed. The definition of conservation has changed along with it.
Old habits and old technologies result in expected outcomes.
1000 years ago when a Chamorro went out to catch fish using the technology available to him at the time, he could safely assume that he wasn't destroying his resource. No new technology was going to be introduced to help him catch more fish and no huge influx of off-islanders would be coming to his home anytime soon (at least for another 500 years).
The only thing he needed to navigate his world were the stars, the waves, and the wind. He lived the way his grandparents lived and he could expect his grandchildren to live the same way.
Like I said, times have changed. We now have more people and new technologies.
When people use old habits combined with new technologies, unexpected outcomes occur.
Fish & Wildlife admits that SCUBA spearfishing nearly decimated our Napolean Wrasse population. I've also heard that gill nets in the 1990's wiped out the turtle population in the lagoon [unconfirmed, just hearsay, so don't jump down my throat, I was in Florida].
When these new technologies were introduced, they weren't introduced with the intent of destroying our resources. People just wanted to catch more fish, feed their families, and practice their culture.
In a previous post I told the story of my father eating one of the last mariana mallards.
I don't think he was purposely eating the last mallard. He was just practicing his culture, right? If you had asked him about the bird on the day he shot it, he would probably have told you that he knew where to find more.
I don't recount that story to try to paint my father in a bad light, I'm just using it to highlight my point. He had spent his whole life shooting and eating that bird and probably expected to spend the remainder of his whole life shooting and eating that bird.
Old habits (hunting every bird you see) combined with new technologies (better rifles than centuries past) led to extinction (the shelling of Saipan during World War II didn't help either).
Am I less Chamorro because I will never see a mariana mallard? Am I less Chamorro because I will never taste one? And is Saipan less Saipan because we no longer have bats and barely any coconut crabs? Do you see where I'm going with this?
If eating certain foods is part of our culture, then what does it say about our culture when we allow that food to go extinct?
Speaking of forming new habits, I came across this news item as I was surfing the Internet:
The tiny Pacific islands nation of Kiribati declared the world's largest marine protected area Thursday - a California-sized ocean wilderness that includes pristine reefs and eight coral atolls teeming with fish and birds.Kiribati isn't even one of the Micronesian nations to sign the Micronesia Challenge, yet look what they just did. I highly recommend reading the whole article, but this is part of the article that I found to be of the most importance:
The plan does not come without costs. Some commercial fishing in the area will be restricted, meaning the Kiribati government will forego some revenue from foreign commercial fishing licenses.The CNMI should start thinking like our brothers in Kiribati.
Kiribati earned $33 million in 2001 from fishing licenses - the latest available figure.
The government stands to lose about $3 million of this revenue with the creation of the reserve, but is hoping to recoup some of the losses by boosting tourism, which now accounts for 20 percent of the gross domestic product. It has already applied to have the marine reserve listed as a World Heritage Site. [emphasis added]