Fishermen, NMI officials want 3 miles of MonumentThe people writing the Wespac talking points are great political linguists. Often in writing, what you don't write is inferred by what you do write. In saying that the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument "should be shared with the people of the commonwealth," it is assumed that it is not currently being shared, that somehow those waters have been taken away from the local people. If anything, the monument has opened up those waters to the local people. How many locals had never seen a picture of those islands and waters before last year's campaign? How many people had never heard of a beaked whale? A humphead parrotfish? They have now. Furthermore, anyone at anytime can hop in a boat and go up there. Want to go fishing while you are there? The monument allows fishing! What's really the problem here? Is it more a deep-rooted hatred of the Federal government?
CNMI officials and local fishermen insisted on Tuesday that the three nautical miles surrounding the recently designated Marine Monument in the Northern Islands should be shared with the people of the commonwealth.
Former Rep. Benigno M. Sablan, who chaired the regional ecosystem advisory committee meeting at the Fiesta Resort & Spa, and Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Ignacio Dela Cruz said they oppose “giving away” the three-mile waters around Maug, Uracas and Asuncion to the federal government.Discussing this is like beating a dead horse. The Commonwealth did not negotiate for submerged lands before the Covenant was signed, mainly because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty was not adopted until 1982. The Covenant was signed in 1976. Check out the United Nations website for some historical perspective. The Commonwealth is not "giving away" anything because they never "had" anything. And again, if anything, this monument has brought the world's attention to our natural wonders and is focusing the attention of a whole new generation of locals on our oceans.
President Bush’s declaration last January that designated the waters surrounding the three northernmost islands as part of the Marine Monument gave back to the CNMI three miles of its exclusive economic zone from the shores of Agrigan to Rota.This is a false statement. I have written to the editor, Zaldy Dandan, asking him to retract it. The proclamation declaring the monument can be found here. I will buy a beer for the person that can find the passage giving the Commonwealth control over any submerged lands.
Political language is used again in the paragraph. When the Commonwealth gains control over some submerged lands, the control will not be "given back," it will be "given." We never had control, so it cannot be "given back."
Although the rest of panel members declined to take a stand on the issue, they expressed concerns about losing the three-mile state waters in the Marine Monument.Again, there are no state waters. Nothing is being lost. And what is it that they are assuming is being lost? The "right" to sell those waters off to foreign fishing vessels? That is the only restriction that has been imposed.
Sablan said accepting the three miles of EEZ from Agrigan to Rota is actually giving away the same size of water in the three northernmost islands.No EEZ has been accepted because the monument proclamation does not include language about transferring any submerged lands to anyone. Sablan is at best misinformed.
Dela Cruz also opposed the exlusion of Maug, Asuncion and Uracas in the three-mile offer. “We need three miles of the EEZ in the Monument too,” he said.Again, what offer? And what exclusion?
Are these officials working under the assumption that the Commonwealth has been given jurisdiction of the submerged lands from 0-3 miles? This has not been accomplished yet.
Representative Sablan has a bill he is introducing in the United States Congress that would grant the Commonwealth jurisdiction over those state waters, but there are no state waters now. What are these guys at the Wespac meeting talking about, other than trying to make people angry at the Federal government?
The Friends of the Monument have some concerns about the submerged lands bill that Sablan is introducing. We are worried that he is going to poke three giant gaping donut holes in the monument, right in the area with the highest biodiversity and productivity. We have yet to see the language of the bill, so we have not taken a stand on this issue, although we support the Commonwealth's efforts to gain control over state waters.
The stance of the Friends of the Monument is the same today as it was when we published our Vision Letter back in October 2008:
The Friends of the Monument want the state waters surrounding Asuncion, Maug, and Uracas to remain a part of the monument, but under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, to be co-managed with the entire 95,000 square mile monument by the Commonwealth, Department of Commerce, and Department of Interior.