I'm here on Guam at the 140th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC), so this news alert about WESPAC caught my eye:
The story goes on, but basically it references this letter written from David M Kennedy, Program Manager of NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, to Sean Martin, Chairman of WESPAC.WESTERN PACIFIC FISHERIES MANAGEMENT COUNCIL REBUKED FOR MEDDLING IN AFFAIRS OF U.S. TERRITORIES
Complaints From Governor of Guam & Officials In American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Spawn Action By U.S. Federal Agency
HONOLULU: MARCH 16, 2008 -- The embattled Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac), the federal agency charged by the U.S. Congress with setting fishery management rules outside U.S. Territorial waters (from 3 miles to 200 miles) has received yet another rebuke -- this time from the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the U.S. Department of Commerce.
This story doesn't surprise me. WESPAC has been very disruptive at meetings on Saipan and has tried to involve themselves in local CNMI issues. For example, they oppose the Micronesia Challenge. On top of that, WESPAC is already being investigated by Congress "in response to concerns about the council’s questionable use of federal funds."
I wish I had known that this letter was being prepared. I would have shared some of the emails I received from Guam WESPAC members during the recent Napoleon Wrasse controversy.
No need to rehash the entire controversy, Mike Tripp did an excellent job here and here.
Basically, a local fisherman who works for one CNMI resource agency called out another local fisherman who works for a competing CNMI resource agency on his catching a very large Napoleon Wrasse. He did so using some very unflattering language.
Another CNMI resource agency employee chimed in, expressing her disappointment in the killing of the fish.
Several people were copied on both emails. I was one of them.
I didn't necessarily agree with the first two emails, so I defended the accused fisherman in an email. I wrote:
That's a big fish.I was the first person to defend him.
While I wish that that huge fish was still out there, ***** did not break any code of ethics or any laws in catching that fish. He was not fishing in a protected area and he was not going after a species with any sort of protection.
If the CNMI thinks that Napoloean Wrasses should be protected, then a law protecting them, like a similar law that exists in Palau, needs to be passed.
Again, I wish that big fish was still out there, but how can we be angry at ***** when there are people fishing at Managaha and the Grotto on a weekly basis?
Those are the fishermen that deserve our scorn, not the guy who was following the rules.
I kind of hoped that this would have been the end, but it was only the beginning. The discussion got real heated, real fast. Dozens of people shot off emails, and the emails got copied to WESPAC members in Guam and Hawaii, including some guy from Guam who signed his email in the following manner:
James Borja, GUAMMr. Borja's letter was respectful and well written. He took the comments made in the first email and he gave a point by point argument defending the accused fisherman. I'm not going to reprint the whole thing, I just want to point out that several of the people commenting were doing so as representatives of WESPAC.
*President, Marianas Underwater Fishing Federation
*Guam Advisory Panel Chair, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
*Member / Board of Directors, Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association
*Part-time Commercial Fisherman
After that comment things got out of control. Dozens of emails started flying and the local blogosphere went bonkers.
One WESPAC member from Guam even started started calling for the heads of the two first email writers. He wrote:
All,Things were getting ridiculous. We were talking about two fishermen from two competing government agencies and a fish caught by a spear fisherman swimming from the shore. This was a local issue. WESPAC is supposed to only manage the waters from 3-200 nautical miles. This was out of their jurisdiction.
I think the issue at hand is not the fact that ***** legally took a fish but that local government officials may be spending official time on government computers going after a very talented local fisherman who followed all laws and regulations pertaining to the harvesting of fish in the CNMI. Even if the emails were not sent from work, the fact that the senders are using their official titles when sending the emails means that they are using their government positions, and by extension the agencies they work for, to bully a law abiding fisherman. I am not so sure CNMI's leaders would appreciate all the time and effort being wasted by these government servants.
If these same government officials would instead spend their time and effort going after those that fish illegally in the CNMI, I and others on this mailing list would be much more willing to partner with the government in establishing fishing regulations that work to the benefit of all fishermen.
Member - Marianas Underwater Fishing Federation
Member - Guam Advisory Panel, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
In response to this Mr. Cabreza's email I sent out an email that read:
Who forwarded this conversation to people in Guam? Is Kitty Simmonds going to give us her thoughts next?Kitty Simmonds is the Executive Director of WESPAC. WESPAC didn't like my comment.
Furthermore, why are people in Guam threatening the jobs of government workers in the CNMI?
When he added his two cents, the Vice Chair of WESPAC finished off his long email by writing:
Lastly, an idiot made a comment about Kitty Simonds writing a letter...to the idiot, you have the audacity to speak ill about a woman who has worked her entire life to protect our Chamorros and Carolinians cultural right to decide our future, I am expected to be in Saipan in March so I may be able discuss about your unhappy childhood and reality that you should never speak badly of someone's mother...taotao manu hao'? I guess the coconut mentality is not limited to Guam. Enough said!Well, I sat behind Manny Duenas for almost two hours today and at no time did he offer to discuss my unhappy childhood. I was very disappointed.
I guess he didn't want to talk to an idiot with coconut mentality...an idiot with coconut mentality who happened to be the first person to speak up for fishing.
Oh well, I don't know if these emails constitute "meddling in the affairs of US Territories," but for an environmentalist to be insulted by these guys is a badge of honor.
Thank you, WESPAC.
It is an honor to even be on your radar.
I hope that your GAO investigation goes well.