Friday, July 31, 2009

When Pigs Attack

pagan japanese bunkerThere is a World War II era Japanese bunker on top of the ridge overlooking the center part of Pagan. This is a photo of the bunker from the back entrance, if that's what it is called. Crawling in, a window that overlooks the central Pagan valley below is visible. It was just about the right size for a machine gun enplacement. I could only imagine being a Japanese soldier waiting for the Americans to come ashore. Had there actually been fighting in Pagan*, the machine gunners in this bunker would have done some serious damage.

So anyway, as I was laying down on my belly to crawl into the small space I roused four sleeping pigs, all of which came barreling out of the doorway right towards my face. I think I jumped out of the way faster than even Spiderman could have.

Stupid pigs.

******
*Last year my father's godfather, Manny S. Villagomez, told me the story of the surrender of Pagan. He was one of 50 locally recruited marine scouts that were brought up to the northern islands by the United States military to help clear the islands of any Japanese resistance. The war was already over when they went up and he said that the approximately 1000 Japanese soldiers on Pagan did not put up a fight. They just surrendered.

Uncle Manny also went up to Maug on that trip to look for Japanese soldiers. The only thing they found on the island was the remains of a fish drying operation and dead bodies. He told me that it was common for American pilots to drop their left over bombs on the northern islands as practice on their way back from bombing Japanese cities. The men who were drying fish were casualties of those bombs.

maug beachI camped out right next to the ruins of that fishing base last Wednesday. While marine debris, especially old fishing gear, is the most prominent thing on the beach these days, the foundation of that fishing base is still visible.

He also said the tuna were so dense in the Maug lagoon that you could catch them with a spear. I saw barracuda and tuna just feet from shore, but they weren't as dense as he described them from 1945.

Giant Coconut Crabs

During our 10 day trip we stopped off at three islands. We spent 2 days at Maug, 2 days at Pagan, and a day at Agrigan. We spent about 36 hours at Sarigan, but never touched land. The other four days we were traveling. The first and the last day were spent traveling and it took a full day to go around Uracas and a full day to travel from Pagan to Sarigan.

The only coconut crabs we saw on the trip were on Agrigan (mostly because we didn't do any coconut crab hunting).

The Saures boys, Eddie, Jeremy, John, and Lao, had a few coconut crabs at their farm and they let us take pictures of them. We also toured their farm and village and barbecued fresh tuna on the beach.

The Saures' have been living on Agrigan for about a year. They said that the last visitors they had were on a fishing vessel back in May. They don't expect their next visit until December.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dolphin Sightings

According to A Scientific Case for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument there are at least 19 species of marine mammals in the waters surrounding the Mariana Islands (I've including a link to a pdf version of the report. Let me know if you want a hard copy). We found two of them.

We saw spinner dolphins off of Uracas and Agrigan and we saw these guys off the coast of Alamagan.

There were probably more marine mammals near our boat, but we didn't have listening equipment and we weren't really looking for them.

Back on Saipan

farallon de parajosThat's me making an ugly face in front of Uracas. I got back to Saipan about an hour ago. More to come...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Captain Carl Saves the Day

Our boat has a new captain. At about 10 AM this morning I asked Captain Carl if he could captain our boat.

He said yes.

We still have not left, but I think we will be out to sea in the next hour.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Still on Saipan

I made sure that everything that I could control was ready to go at midnight last night. We were all ready to go.

Well, except for the captain and his crew and his boat.

We're waiting on them. As soon as the boat is ready to go, we're out to sea.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Neverland

In less than 48 hours I will be sitting on the deck of a boat heading towards the Islands Unit of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. My permit with the Division of Fish & Wildlife came through on Friday afternoon and I've spent the last several days collecting the supplies I will need for my 10 day expedition. I've paid for half the charter and will pay the remainder tomorrow.

The trip to the Northern Islands is a go!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kumoi Campaigns in Gualo Rai

It started as a low rumbling in the distance. Then there was music. Voices.

Oh, it's just one of the four gubernatorial candidates disturbing the peace and quiet of my neighborhood.

A Bad Year for Bleaching

Later today NOAA will announce that they expect 2009 to be a bad bleaching year in the Caribbean.

From an email sent to the Coral Reef Task Force Steering Committee (I'm not on that committee, by the way):
Our Seasonal Bleaching Guidance product that we first released a year ago is now indicating that 2009 has a potential to be a bad bleaching year in much of the Caribbean. The NOAA Coral Reef Watch (CRW) Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook indicates that there is a significant potential for high levels of thermal stress in the Caribbean in 2009, especially in the Lesser Antilles including the USVI and Puerto Rico. Based on our current model, there is a potential for higher thermal stress than normal in 2009. Other areas of concern in 2009 are central Pacific including the equatorial Line Islands and Kiribati. Some thermal stress may also develop between the Northern Marianas Islands and Japan. An important caveat is that the model used for this outlook is not yet calling for El Niño development, whereas NOAA’s operational Climate Forecast System is now calling for development of an El Niño during 2009-10. If El Niño conditions continue to strengthen, this could increase the bleaching risk in the central to eastern Pacific and Caribbean.
Notice the mention of the Northern Mariana Islands? Sorry Iwo Jima.

I'll link to the announcement when it comes up; in the meantime visit the NOAA Coral Reef Watch Homepage.

******
Here is the NOAA Coral Reef Bleaching Outlook.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter: The Book was Better

I enjoyed every minute of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I don't care what George Hasselback has to say about it.

Quidditch was awesome. The scene in the cave played out exactly how I imagined it when I read the book four years ago. Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter, even though he should have messy black hair, not straight brown. Alan Rickman is an incredible Snape, even if the snape I imagined in the books looks a little more like Adam Sandler as Little Nicky dressed in goth.

I still say that Laetitia Casta should have been cast as Fleur, even if she doesn't appear in this movie. And neither does Bill. And Fenrir never turns into a werewolf. And they skip the huge fight in Hogwarts castle at the end.

The movie was still a lot of fun, but no where near as good as the book.

(Who decided it would be a good idea to cut out the werewolf? Every movie gets 5% points better if a werewolf is included!)

******
Speaking of werewolves, there was a trailer for the new Twilight movie. Werewolves? The new movie has werewolves?

I first heard of Twilight on Hope Reyes' blog. She was counting down the days until the movie came out and predicting that it would win 35 Academy Awards and earn $7.9 billion at the Box Office because it was going to be the greatest. movie. ever. made.

I was in Florida when the film came out last fall and I successfully convinced my two brothers and stepfather to go see the new movie about vampires.

Not so much.

Twilight is about as interesting as Dawson's Creek without Tom Cruise's wife. By the way, are they still married?

Now the new movie has werewolves. Is it going to be more like Underworld? Or are we in for another Dawson's Creek reunion?

July 22 Eclipse from Saipan

saipan solar eclipseThe solar eclipse next Wednesday, July 22 will be visible from the island of Saipan. Starting at 11:24 AM, the maximum obscuration will be 77.04% and will take place at 12:53 PM. The whole thing will be over at 2:15 PM. Click HERE for an animation showing what the eclipse will look like on Saipan.

maug solar eclipse marianasIf all goes according to plan I will be sitting on the deck of a boat in the Maug Lagoon, 350 miles north of Saipan. If the Internet is to believed, we will see a 93.5 obscuration from Maug.

******
Guam, 100 miles to the south of Saipan, will see a 68.62% obscuration, but nobody cares about Guam.

NO Eurotrash in the Trench

In less than a year a bunch or Eurotrash Assholes are planning on dumping some ugly looking nasty structure into the Marianas Trench. From their website:
THIS IS HOW IT WORKS

1. Visit a venue of the Deep Storage World Project in a city near you
2. Let our nurse take a drop of your blood and a piece of your hair for DNA
3. Your DNA will be contained in the Deep Storage sculpture in the Mariana Trench
4. Place another drop of your blood on a Deep Storage Certificate
5. The Deep Storage certificate with your blodsample will be signed and numbered by Hornsleth
6. The certificate is a gift to you and is a proof of participation
7. Special donor editons of the Deep Storage sculpture will be on offer for certificate holders only
8. These special sculptures will be engraved with donors certificate number and Hornsleth signature
This is nothing more than a lame attempt from some unemployed crappy artist to get stupid upper middle class white people to part with their money.

They've already set a timeline, which means we have less than a year to keep these dumbasses from dumping their stupid trash in our waters. Their timeline for the next year:
HDSP TIME PLAN

The Hornsleth Deep Storage Project in full action and about to finalize 1st of 5 stages

January – June 2009
- Collecting DNA samples 10 cities in Europe and Asia
- Deep Storage Art Shows, PR work, Lectures in schools, universities and companies
- Investigating Marianas Trench via Guam about political and technical issues

June – August 2009
- Dialouge with Corporate Project Partners
- Preparing film trailer for national filmboard application
- Planning and arranging collection of DNA in Africa and Americas in fall
- Contacting Deep Storage cities to place a full size Deep Storage sister sculptures

September – December 2009
- Collecting DNA samples 10 cities in Africa, Americas, Polar areas, Australia
- Deep Storage Art Shows, PR work, Lectures in schools, universities and companies
- Preparing for technical and logistical issues for sinking sculpture in January 2010
- Inviting 200 Deep Storage certificate holders to Guam, planetickets and hotels
- Arranging for advisors travel to Guam
- Contacting Deep Storage cities to place a full size Deep Storage sister sculptures

January 2010
- Guam from 10th January producing the final DS sculpture
- Bringing 200 DS guests onboard big ship from Guam 24 hrs to the Trench and back
- 20th of January, Big Drop Day, big party on the ship, Live band and Lectures
- Contacting Deep Storage cities to place a full size Deep Storage sister sculptures

February – March 2010
- Arranging Deep Storage Exhibition in Copenhagen and other major cities
- Producing Deep Storage hard cover art book 300 pages
- Contacting Deep Storage cities to place a full size Deep Storage sister sculptures
There are already millions of pounds of plastic floating in our ocean from developed nations. Visit any north-facing beach in the Marianas and you'll find mountains of garbage.

We don't need more garbage in our oceans!

Why not do us a favor and keep your stupid sculpture in Europe?

******
If you would like to email these morons, email nicolai@hornsleth.com. Let them know what you think about their project.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Laulau Reveg Practice Run

A few weeks ago I guess I offered to take some students on a hike to the Laulau Revegetation Site. It has been a while since I've brought a group of students up there, but it is something that I've done at least a dozen times, both as the Public Involvement Coordinator with RC&D and the Executive Director of MINA.

The Laulau Revegetation Project is one of my favorite places on Saipan and a place where I've spent a lot of time working. In 2006 we planted over 800 saplings and 250 cuttings and broadcast over 5000 seeds at the site. The area is being revegetated because it keeps burning. Luckily, the area hasn't burned since the big burning right after I got here in 2006.

The lesson I try to impart when I do these field trips is the slogan we came up with for my RC&D project three years ago, "What we do on the land can affect our marine environment."

I had a bit of a language barrier with this group, but I usually get the kids up on the mountain and then point out how different land use practices affect the ocean. From the reveg site you can see villages, a golf course, farms, beaches, a dive site, roads, and forest and I ask the students how they think each of these affects the ocean. What happens when an area burns? What happens with excess fertilizer? We usually have a very lively discussion.

This time around I brought some coconut trees to see how easy or difficult it would be to plant them. Coconuts are not part of the NRCS planting plan, but for a few years I've wanted to try planting them up there.

My idea goes back to a revegetation site I visited in Costa Rica in 2002. My journal from the trip is in storage and I wish I had it now to look at my notes, but basically they were having a hard time getting natives to grow for a number of reasons, one of them being competition from African grass. So they decided to plant something that they knew would at least grow. If they could get something to grow and shade out the grass, then it might make it easier for the natives to recolonize.

Ironwood grows really well up there, but the Division of Fish & Wildlife doesn't want us to use it. So how about coconuts? They're native enough. They're hardy. They grow practically anywhere, including on the beach which is nutrient poor and salty. So how about in our revegetation project?

It can't hurt to try, so along with my usual lesson, I had each kid bring along a coconut, which they planted at the reveg site.

laulau revegetation saipanCoconuts are really easy to find on Saipan. They are literally everywhere. They are also really easy to get into the reveg site now that the Saipan Mayor's Office has bulldozed an illegal road into the area.

This road, by the way, has completely negated the next 10 years of reveg work, but you can't let things like that get you down.

Thanks, Mayor Tudela! You contributed to the destruction of our coral reefs!

korean studentsSome of the students were more enthusiastic than the others. I think certain kids had never been hiking. I don't think some of them liked being outdoors period.

But then every group of students has a few kids like that. Like I always say, sword grass cuts, bee stings, and sunburns build character.

Edz, Oreo, and Snow White tagged along. Edz and Oreo have planted trees with me before, but this was Snow White's first time.

Manly Dog

snow white and angeloThere is a limit to how tough you can look when your dog is a fluffy white maltese puppy named Snow White.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Marianas Rolls in Blue Expanse

The essay contest to find a local person to join our expedition to Maug ended last night. Two essays stood out, one from a young student and the other from a young teacher. In the end we chose the student, but the vote was not unanimous.

Dennis Chan of San Vicente, an 18 year recent high school graduate, will accompany us to the island of Maug next Monday.

Congrats, Dennis.
Friends of the Monument
July 13, 2009

Why I Want to Visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

I am eighteen and have just graduated from high school. I am no fishermen, not an excellent swimmer, cannot dive into meters deep water and wrestle whales. I’m from Saipan and if were chosen would well-represent my age group. I want so badly to get on that boat to Maug to experience the greater Marianas.

People my age, my fellow graduates and many of my friends still in high school easily diss the commonwealth, their Saipan that they reside in. Whether it is the government, school or the smallness they feel holds them. Our memories are still fresh of the summer of 2008 in the rolling blackouts in the sweat. I’m sure we love Saipan, I love Saipan, we swim at beaches, climb down, climb up the stairs of the grotto, and stroll the street market, however there’s a perception that we know all there is to know, we’ve sucked all the sap there is on Saipan. It’s been said that Saipan is a bore. Our eyes look to taller buildings, the malls of the mainland. We sigh, jaded and discontent after signing in, signing off, signing in, signing off, Myspace, Facebook, waiting for that viral video to load—we sigh worn with the immediacy of the Internet. “Saipan sucks.” My home sucks. This commonwealth sucks. Nothing’s happening. I’ve heard these things many times. My perception and theirs are limited to what we know. I feel strongly that there is something beautiful, not as immediate as a video on Youtube, but ever present. More reliable than whatever government is in place, more reliable than your water or electricity, more secure than an accredited college status—Saipan is not the Marianas, the Marianas rolls in blue expanse over miles and miles and settles some in the green and the trees and the beaches. I want to go to Maug and see this happen.

Perception is always jolted with new experience. I spent a week in Tinian without the internet or decent showers, kept awake with damp and smelly tents. We camped at Tachungnya. Our head instructor Ms. Valencourt remarked at the campfire how she gathered from what she heard, that we kids thought Tinian to be a foreign country. Tinian is right next door! Tinian is our sister and brother. Tinian holds so much history—I stood over the uncovered pits of Little Boy and Fat Man and was overwhelmed, viewed pictures of cities obliterated and was grave.

I may not speak for all my age, but our perception of fun forms in that media mold: what TV offers, what they say. But there is grandness here; there was on Tinian. On Tinian where Tachungnya houses fish a few feet from shore—the butterfly fish and its second rear eye swims by, on Tinian where the limestone trail deters to an edge to a view filled with blue, green and beach, on Tinian were destruction sat in pits that should have never been dug. Tinian has no theater, no stop lights, we joke, and yet Tinian was unique. All of us Saipan campers agreed on this.

That was all a tease though. Tinian’s become a tickle, and I think there might be more. I want to see the rest of my Marianas because I tasted Tinian.

Tinian is a ferry ride away and I felt it was another world. I’m naive for it, and maybe naive in thinking partly that a trip to Maug would render me to some enlightening epiphany. I want to go because I know I’d appreciate it. I want to go because I am young and feel the universe expanding, running and that I better catch up, or keep a good pace before it escapes me.
To the north on a boat to Maug maybe I’d get to know my home more—the greater Marianas. Maybe I’d taste some great fish, share in words that bewildered me and maybe other youth will read and decide to see for themselves. I want to go because I believe that the monument reveals and protects a Marianas with a different, better thrill than we, my age, have imagined finding elsewhere. But I want to know firsthand.

Dennis Chan
San Vicente

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bruno: Most Offensive Movie Ever Made

I have never been in a movie theater where dozens of people walked out. That changed today.

Literally half of the audience watching the 7:30 showing of Bruno at Hollywood Theaters on Saipan walked out of the theater. Two scenes in particular saw a large number of walk outs.

The first scene that was too offensive too watch came when Bruno decided that the best way to become famous was to have his own celebrity interview television program. One word: Penis.

The entire front row walked out during the finale.

A few minutes later Bruno tries to channel the dead member of the musical duo Milli Vanilla and proceeds to "kiss" him. That's when half the theater walked out.

Oh well.

They missed out on the most offensive, and one of the funniest movies ever made.

And when I mean offensive, I mean that the Catholic Church should be leading a boycott. In fact, any God-fearing individual needs to say about 7,000 rosaries to make up for watching this movie.

But it's worth it.

******
On a more serious note, I found the movie to be a sobering criticism of how much America hates gays.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

That's my cousin!

There is an article in the Marianas Variety today with the headline Wounded green sea turtle rescued.
AN injured green sea turtle is now recuperating at an animal clinic after it was rescued while stranded on the beach at the Old Man by the Sea in Talafofo last Wednesday.

[snip]

Norman Villagomez called DFW after finding the green sea turtle in the shallow waters at Old Man by the Sea.

DFW conservation officers and sea turtle program staff proceeded to the scene immediately and found the juvenile green turtle which was described as “lethargic with injuries to its hind carapace.”

[snip]

Staffers of the green sea turtle program would like to thank the Villagomez family for calling them.
Norman is my first cousin. Thanks, Norman!

How awesome is it that somebody would try to rescue the turtle instead of simply eating it?

Not that I expect you to memorize these numbers, but the DFW enforcement daytime phone number is 664-6030 and the 24-hour hotline is 898-3570. The sea turtle program’s phone number is 664-6026. Call them if you have a violation to report.

Win a Trip to the Northern Islands

A member of the Friends of the Monument has agreed to pay for a local young person to visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and several of the Northern Islands later this month. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, wants a local person to experience visiting the uninhabited islands to the north. The donor hopes that the winner will share their experience with their families, friends, and classmates through photos and a daily journal.

The Friends of the Monument are holding an essay contest to select which young person gets to go on the trip scheduled for July 20 - 30.

The topic for the essay contest is “Why I want to visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.” The deadline for submissions is Monday, July 13, at 5pm. Essays must be in Microsoft Word format and e-mailed to marianamonument@gmail.com. There is a 1,000 word limit for the essay. Applicants must be between 18-25 years old.

The winning essay writer will earn a seat on a boat leaving for Maug on July 20, 2009. All transportation and food costs will be paid for by the donor. If for any reason the boat trip is canceled, the winner will have a seat on the next planned expedition.

The winner will be expected to keep a daily journal that will be published on the Friends of the Monument blog found at http://marianamonument.blogspot.com.

I hit a nerve

John Gourley wrote me another love letter in the newspapers today.
Letter to the Editor: The NMI Marine Conservation Plan and Foreign Fishing: The misinformation just keeps on coming

IT has come to my attention that a member of our local blog community believes it is necessary to scare the people of the Marianas with all forms of imagined threats from foreign fishing activities.

His personal misinformation campaign appears to be based on a (complete?) lack of knowledge related to the recent federal approval of the CNMI’s marine conservation plan. The news story was titled “Feds approve 3-year marine conservation plan for CNMI.”

I should first state that this letter is not about my opinion on foreign fishing issues — I did not express any. Nor is it about whether the CNMI government is advocating foreign fishing — I don’t know and I do not represent the government. It is more about getting correct information out to the public concerning the recent renewal of the CNMI’s marine conservation plan.

I found the news story factual, informative, and very straightforward. The article focused on federal approval of the CNMI marine conservation plan and did not discuss anything about foreign fishing opportunities opening up in the CNMI. Unfortunately, it was the subsequent distortion of facts and public dissemination of misleading information by the Pew CNMI coordinator that I found disturbing. All of a sudden the simple action of federal approval for a required tri-annual renewal of a marine conservation plan that guides how revenue from foreign fishing activities would be spent in the CNMI was transformed into:

“The [news story] unearths the fact that NOAA has approved opening the Exclusive Economic Zone around the Northern Mariana Islands to foreign fishing.”

“NOAA has approved opening the Exclusive Economic Zone around the Northern Mariana Islands to foreign fishing.”

“And how Dr. Jane Lubchenco is going to end overfishing in American waters. Meanwhile, we just opened our waters to foreign fishing vessels.”

“If you think that it is because you were listening to the guys that successfully just sold your waters off to foreign countries.”

“Last week it was announced that the Wespac proposal to open up CNMI waters to foreign fishing vessels was approved by Governor Fitial and NOAA. …. Yet six months later they are trying to sell off our waters to foreign countries.”

“The New York Times recently published an editorial about overfishing. As you read it, keep in mind that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands recently approved a plan to open up the United States Exclusive Economic Zone surrounding our islands to foreign fishing.”

First of all, foreign fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone can only be authorized through the signing of an international fishing agreement known as a Pacific Insular Area Fishing Agreement, or PIAFA, as allowed in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The CNMI has never had a PIAFA and it is my understanding that none are under development for the CNMI.

Second, the act of renewing (i.e., federal approval) the CNMI’s marine conservation plan by NOAA did not suddenly open up our EEZ to foreign fishing. In fact, our EEZ is not any more open to foreign fishing then the time of the CNMI’s first marine conservation plan in 1999. This original plan was subsequently reviewed and again approved in 2002, 2005 and most recently, 2008 as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Third, the marine conservation plan is an action plan that only addresses how revenue generated from foreign fishing activities would be spent by the local government — nothing more, nothing less. It does not authorize foreign fishing activities and is not an indicator that the CNMI government is actively pursuing foreign fishing.

The following brief overview is offered:

What is a Pacific Insular Area Fishery Agreement or PIAFA?

A PIAFA is the official document (i.e., International agreement) that authorizes foreign fishing activities in Pacific insular area EEZ’s. The PIAFA provision [Section 204:104-297] was added to the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1996 and is only valid for the Pacific insular areas (i.e., CNMI, Guam, American Samoa and the Pacific Remote Island Areas).

This agreement is negotiated by the Secretary of State and must have concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce, and the Governor of the Pacific Insular Area to which the PIAFA applies. In addition, the WPRFMC must be consulted during the development process. Prior to PIAFA approval, the fisheries council must make a determination that such an agreement will not adversely affect the fishing activities of the indigenous people within the Pacific insular area that is considering a PIAFA.

Local control over any proposed foreign fishing activities within the EEZ of Pacific insular areas is assured by the Magnuson-Stevens Act through veto power granted to the Governor over any PIAFA within their jurisdiction

Prior to 1996, all revenue generated from any foreign fishing agreement was to be deposited in the U.S. Treasury. PIAFAs are designed so that any foreign fishing revenue flows back to the Pacific Island territory and not into the U.S. Treasury. How these revenues are spent is governed by a marine conservation plan developed by each Pacific insular area.

What is a marine conservation plan?

The Magnuson-Stevens Act [Section 204: 104-479 (4)(A)] requires each Pacific insular area to develop a marine conservation plan that identifies a list of prioritized projects or programs that addresses specific conservation needs of the insular area where foreign fishing may be authorized. The sole purpose of the plan is to provide detailed guidelines for the expenditure of any revenue received from foreign fishing activities via a PIAFA. The marine conservation plan ensures that all funds are spent appropriately, according to the approved plan and not usurped by the local government for non-conservation projects. As required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, these plans are to be updated, reviewed, and approved every three years by the WPRFMC and National Marine Fisheries Service.

The CNMI’s newly approved marine conservation plan contains 12 objectives that are consistent with the existing Marianas archipelago fishery management plans. To meet these objectives, the CNMI has identified and prioritized 22 projects for potential funding.

Although a marine conservation plan is required prior to approval of a PIAFA, the recent federal approval of the CNMI’s marine conservation plan can not and does not authorize any foreign fishing activities within our EEZ. Additionally, the recent renewal of the CNMI’s marine conservation plan, the third iteration since the 1999 plan, was simply to comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

What if foreign fishing is allowed in the CNMI?

Should foreign fishing ever be authorized in our EEZ, those vessels would have to toe the line as far as fishing to the same standard as U.S. vessels in terms of permits, reporting, observer deployment, VMS, bycatch and protected species mitigation, area/seasonal closures, and a myriad of other regulations. With respect to commercial fishing activities, the US fishing fleet is one of the most regulated in the world. Not surprisingly, no foreign fishing entity has even bothered to negotiate a PIAFA because it’s unlikely they could get their vessels to match

U.S. vessels in terms of the high standards we require of U.S. fishing vessels. I am not claiming that foreign fishing will never occur in the CNMI EEZ, it’s just that foreign entities won’t be knocking the door down to be the first in line for a PIAFA.

Should foreign vessels ever be authorized to fish in our EEZ, they will not be allowed free reign over the taking of our marine resources and their actions will be tightly controlled and monitored.

With that being said, I will leave you with one last quote: “Imagine watching Taiwanese fishing vessels mining our waters from the shores of Beach Road. That is what these new regulations are going to allow.”

As with other sensationalized claims the Pew CNMI Coordinator has made on this issue, the above statement is utter nonsense. His campaign of creating an atmosphere of fear in our community is irresponsible. It is just another underhanded attempt at trying to scare people in supporting his (i.e., Pew Environment Group) push to expand the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument boundaries out to 200 miles and the implementation of additional draconian no-fishing regulations.

I truly appreciate someone taking the time to learn about the issues and then voicing their opinion in an open and honest manner — whether I personally agree with them or not. This approach provides an opportunity for rational community discussion and educated decisions based on facts. Based on his blog postings, it is obvious that the Pew CNMI coordinator does not believe in this approach.

JOHN GOURLEY
Navy Hill, Saipan
The more this guy writes the more people think he's full of hot air. Notice he doesn't deny that the CNMI just opened their waters to foreign fishing, he just walks you through the process that led to this travesty. Then he claims that it would be difficult to follow through with the plan. Aren't most plans difficult?

Lame.

By the way, I love it that John hangs on my every word. I also love it that Kitty Simonds thinks I'm hot.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Platinum Elite

This morning Northwest Airlines credited me with 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles with something called "EQM Thank You Giveaway." Thank you, Northwest Airlines!

Those miles bumped me into Platinum Elite status. My first perk for attaining this level was an email with codes to earn six, count them, six one-way, system-wide confirmed upgrades. Man, do I feel special!

Now if only I had someplace to travel...

******
I got an email today explaining the 10,000 miles
Dear Angelo Villagomez,

A jump start can be the perfect beginning.

That's why we're excited to provide you with 5,000 complimentary Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) - which have already been deposited into your WorldPerks account - to help you requalify for Elite status in 2010.

We understand your ability to travel is more restricted this year, due to the economy and other factors, but we hope you'll continue to fly with us and enjoy your elite status benefits while continuing to add even more Elite Qualification Miles to your balance. Take advantage of our vast new network, serving almost 400 destinations in more than 65 countries on six continents, including new routes to Johannesburg, Sydney, Saigon and beyond. Book a flight today.

You're the reason we fly,

Jeff Robertson
Vice President - Loyalty Programs
I was already Gold Elite, so I guess they doubled my miles automatically.

Free Entertainment at the Courthouse

Tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) at 2:30 PM the Charles Reyes Jr vs Janet King courtroom drama will continue. I wasn't there, but over beers at Remingtons I learned that Janet was called to testify today. Tomorrow afternoon, Charles Reyes Jr's attorney, Charles Reyes Jr, will have the opportunity to cross-examine Ms. King.

Should provide some quality entertainment.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Edz & Kilili

greg sablan and EdzThat's our Representative to the United States Congress Greg Camacho Sablan schmoozing with Edz.

Monday, July 06, 2009

$500 Reward

I just went to see Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

While I was in the theater some jerk broke into my locked car and stole my Canon S5 Digital Camera.

I will give $500 to the person who turns in the person who stole my camera, dependent on the return of my camera and the conviction of the thief.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

July 4th Parade

At about 4:30 PM on Thursday afternoon towards the end of the monthly Beautify CNMI meeting, Joe Kaipat asked those in attendance if they would be interested in doing a cleanup after the Liberation Day Parade. More specifically, would the members be interested in following the tail end of the parade to hand out garbage bags and pick up litter?

We all thought it was a great idea and with less than 48 hours before the start of the parade set out to organize ourselves. Did I mention the Thursday workday was over and Friday was a holiday?

We started off by securing one of the Division of Environmental Quality trucks and calling the Division of Parks & Recreation and the Mayor's Office to see if we would even be allowed to do this. Parks & Rec had no problem and gave us their blessing. The Mayor's Office told us to call Jack Omar at Emergency Management Office. Jack told us to call Felipe Atalig, who told us to come to the pre-parade meeting starting right now at the Liberation Day festival grounds.

Once at the meeting we filled out an application and got the approval of the parade committee. Then they set about assigning the parade order, but we didn't have to stick around for that because we were going to go last!

We needed to announce our plans in the media, so we ran over to the Saipan Tribune office and asked one of the reporters to write a story. Even though it was past the normal deadline to submit a story, they published an article in Friday's paper.

Then we set about recruiting volunteers and asking for support. DEQ provided a truck and rubber gloves, I donated garbage bags, bottled water and McDonald's cheeseburgers, Pacific Eagle gave us a truck and volunteers, Laurie Peterka gave her truck and drove, and Artman gave us a 20 foot dumpster and paid for the trash removal. We also used the Beautify CNMI trash trailer built with funds from the Bank of Guam.

I also donated 25 color copies of the Beautify CNMI logo and website, which we used to decorate the trucks.

With everything set, our plan for the parade was simple enough. We would hand out garbage bags and collect trash along the parade route.

Oreo helped out from the back of the truck donated by Representative Waki. I was amazed at how many people on the parade route knew his name. He might just rival Brad Ruszala in popularity. I had no idea!

While the thought of being an unpaid garbage man for a day crossed my mind, I found our event to be a great experience. As we walked the streets asking people if they needed a garbage bag, you could see a light go on, "Oh yeah, a garbage bag. Now I won't have to leave my 50 empty beer cans and plastic plates under this tree."

After we handed out the bags, instead of leaving all their trash on the road, people would start cleaning up their area. Entire families would pitch in to help. It was repeated every ten feet and was amazing to watch.

Beautify CNMI KililiI loved all the cheers of "Beautify CNMI!" and the "thank yous" and "good jobs" we got along the parade route. I'm sure that's par for marching in a parade, but it has been decades since I marched in a parade (unless I was dressed as a giant dog and making $6.10/hour).

At the end of the parade route we did a U-turn and brought the trash back to the trash bin on the Aldan property next to Star Water.

On the way back down Beach Road I noticed that there was hardly any litter. Where there was trash, it was sitting by the road in one of our blue garbage bags.

Mission Accomplished.

It only took us a few minutes to unload the trash into the dumpster provided by Artman. I don't know what we would have done without their help.

After unloading the trash from our trucks, the Ogomoro family, who was barbecuing at that spot, offered us some of their food and their beer.

Over beers we all decided that this was going to have to become an annual event.

Environmental Champion Ken Kramer

Ken KramerLast month we handed out the annual Beautify CNMI Champion and Steward Awards at the Beautify CNMI/PAWS Boonie Dog Show. Ken Kramer, one of the Beautify CNMI Champion Award winners, was off-island at the time. We presented him with his award last Thursday at the monthly Beautify CNMI meeting. Also pictured besides Ken and myself are Joe Kaipat and Laurie Peterka, two of the Committee Chairs.

Yellow Flame Tree

yellow flame tree Delonix regiaThis Yellow Flame Tree (Delonix regia) is in my neighbor's yard in Gualo Rai. I know of only three other such trees on Saipan, one in San Vicente, one in Navy Hill, and one in San Roque.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

North Korea set to attack Hawaii

Nhatky Publications in India is reporting that North Korea is set to launch a missile towards Hawaii.
North Korea Missile Launch To Hawaii On Independence Day

North Korea may launch a long-range ballistic missile towards Hawaii on American Independence Day, according to Japanese intelligence officials.

The missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2 with a range of up to 4,000 miles, would be launched in early July from the Dongchang-ni site on the north-western coast of the secretive country.
The Australian media is reporting that the US may be unable to protect Hawaii.
A missile defense expert doesn't believe the US ground- and sea-based defense assets can protect Hawaii against North Korean missiles.
Meanwhile, American media is reporting that North Korea Sucks as the Pentagon says it is "optimistic" and "90%-plus" confident".

I don't like those odds.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Boat Trip to Maug: Want to go?

Maug is the center island in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

About 350 miles north of Saipan, it consists of three islands that surround the caldera of an ancient volcano. The ancient volcanic peak has eroded and is now a deep and spacious natural harbor. Steep cliffs border the islands and the landscape on the north and west islands is dominated by columns of basalt resembling tombstones. Vegetation on Maug consist mostly of grasses with a few coconut palms

At the end of this month I am chartering a boat to take 10 or more people to the center of Maug to watch the solar eclipse. And to go snorkeling. We will most likely go straight to Maug from Saipan and then stop at a few of the other islands on our journey back south.

There are a few spots available on the boat. If you would like to come, you have to be someone I like (just kidding) and pay your own way (not kidding). The cost of the 10 day trip will be just over $2000 each.

If you are interested, please contact me ASAP. Priority will go to certain people who already know who they are, after them spaces will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

MaugMaugMaugMaug

Coral Reef Recommendations

Back in February I wrote a post about how Beautify CNMI and Friends of the Monument had signed onto a letter making Recommendations for Coral Reef Conservation to President Obama and the 111th Congress.

Back then only 12 people had signed the letter. Now forty-four coral reef conservation groups and stakeholders, and one hundred and seventeen marine scientists and professionals have signed on.

Yes We Can!

I've reposted the letter below, but if you prefer to read it in full color with all the fancy signatures, click HERE.

If this is something that you would like to support, then you can also join the Facebook Group for this letter.
San Francisco, CA – July 2, 2009

Healthy coral reefs are the largest living structures on the planet and the second largest storehouse of biological diversity. These highly productive ecosystems are economically valuable, with reef-based tourism generating more than $1.2 billion each year in the Florida Keys alone. Coral reefs provide coastal protection, food, and income, supporting the livelihoods of approximately 100 million people around the world.

However, coral reefs in the United States and worldwide are declining at an alarming rate. Unless we take immediate action, we could lose up to 70 percent of the world's coral reefs by 2050. Human activities have damaged coral reefs to the point of being the most threatened ecosystem on Earth; they are currently teetering on the edge of destruction. Fortunately, three major human impacts on reefs-climate change, overfishing, and pollution-are reversible if we act now. As noted undersea explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle has stated: "If reefs are in trouble, we are in trouble."

We are encouraged by indications that the Obama Administration and the new Congress will establish a serious commitment to coral reef conservation through the appointment of Dr. Jane Lubchenco-a distinguished ocean scientist with a strong track record in ocean conservation-to lead the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We also see a tremendous opportunity for the United States to continue its leadership role in helping to reverse the downward spiral of coral reef destruction and ensure the health and survival of these invaluable resources for future generations.

We urge the Administration to adopt the strongest possible measures for the protection and conservation of coral reef ecosystems, and stand ready to partner with you in designing and implementing an effective and global coral reef conservation strategy. Such measures could include the following:

• Reauthorize the U.S. Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, including authorizing international coral reef conservation activities;
• Enact meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide emissions that target CO2 concentrations to stabilize at levels climate scientists determine are necessary to preserve coral reef ecosystems;
• Fund and lead domestic and international coral reef conservation efforts through NOAA, USAID, EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the State Department;
• Support NOAA's priorities in reducing impacts to coral reefs from fishing and land-based sources of pollution;
• Effectively conserve at least 30 percent of coral reef and reef-associated coastal resources in U.S. states and territories using marine managed areas over the next eight years; and
• Provide more support for ocean education and citizen-science programs to create an educated public that understands and is committed to ocean conservation.

Reauthorize the U.S. Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000
The reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act must be a priority for the 111th Congress during 2009. The act was established in 2000 to preserve coral reef ecosystems, promote wise management, and obtain better information about the current condition of coral reefs. As a result of this act, millions of Americans have been educated about the coral reef crisis, research has documented the threats and damage, and large areas such as the Northwest Hawaiian Islands have been protected. It is critical to continue this work to give reefs any chance to survive and to expand similar strategies around the world by authorizing activities for international coral reef conservation.

Enact Meaningful Reductions in Carbon Dioxide Emissions that Target CO2 Concentrations to Stabilize at Levels Climate Scientists Determine are Necessary
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions must be prioritized. Without action, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration is expected to exceed 500 parts per million (ppm) between 2050 and 2100, and global temperatures will likely rise by at least 2°C. Under these conditions, global warming and ocean acidification are predicted to damage and kill most reefs. We urge the federal government to take aggressive action to reduce emissions now-action that can serve as a benchmark for international leadership.

Fund and Lead Domestic and International Coral Reef Conservation Efforts through NOAA, USAID, EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the State Department
With the recent addition of the Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments, ensuring adequate capacity for management and monitoring of these and other domestic coral resources has never been more critical. The United States should also provide increased leadership in international and national coral reef conservation efforts. As increasing areas of reefs are damaged, tens of millions of people around the world will become desperate for food in countries that are critically important for global stability. Stopping coral reef destruction now and investing in conservation is an investment in global security.

Support NOAA’s Priorities in Reducing Impacts to Coral Reefs from Fishing and Land-based Sources of Pollution
Along with large-scale threats resulting from climate change, NOAA has identified land-based sources of pollution and impacts from fishing as priority areas for coral reef conservation. Land-based sources of pollution and poor water quality are recognized as two of the most important factors driving coral reef decline. In addition, rapid human population increases, growth of export fisheries, use of more efficient fishery gear, expansion of destructive fishing techniques, and inadequate management and enforcement have led to the depletion of not only keystone reef fish species, but also associated species and ecosystems. For these reasons, we recommend expanded funding and legislative capacity for NOAA to better manage recreational and commercial fisheries and land-based sources of pollution to meet coral reef conservation objectives.

Effectively Conserve at Least 30 Percent of Coral Reef and Reef-Associated Coastal Resources in U.S. States and Territories Using Marine Managed Areas over the Next Eight Years
Full protection of at least 30 percent of the planet’s coral reefs from human activities is a reasonable and realistic management goal that will allow reefs to thrive. On November 5, 2005, then President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., of Palau called on his peers to join him in the Micronesia Challenge to effectively conserve 30 percent of near-shore marine resources within marine protected areas by 2020. Similarly, Caribbean governments have called for 20 percent protection of marine and coastal habitats by 2020 in the Caribbean Challenge. We ask for the United States to join the many nations that recognize the importance of marine managed areas for effective coral reef conservation and provide the staff and funding needed for active research, monitoring, enforcement, and local management.

Provide More Support for Ocean Education and Citizen-Science Programs
By becoming educated about the value of coral reefs and threats to their survival, the public can become strong advocates for conservation and sustainability. One of the most effective means of education is a citizen-science program that turns hands-on experience into knowledge. As a leader in marine conservation, the new administration should provide increased support for ocean education and citizen-science programs in the United States and internationally.

Respectfully,

Signed by forty-four coral reef conservation groups and stakeholders, and one hundred and seventeen marine scientists and professionals, as follows:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Call for Volunteers

Hafa Adai,

There are two volunteer events this weekend. The monthly cleanup of Garapan is on Sunday. Meet at the American Memorial Park parking lot at 8 AM.

We are also going to do a cleanup after the parade tomorrow. For the last three years I've been disgusted with the amount of garbage left on the streets for days afterwards, so this time Beautify CNMI has signed up to be the last group in the parade. We'll bring our pickup trucks and trailers and collect people's trash along the route.

I NEED VOLUNTEERS and TRUCKS!!!

If you would like to volunteer, just show up at National Office Supply tomorrow at 2 PM. I'll have a t-shirt for you. I'll have all the supplies you'll need. You just have to follow along with us at the end of the parade.

If you would like to donate your truck (with a driver) please give me a call at 285-6462.

I hope to see you this weekend. Have a safe one.

Thanks,

Angelo

From the Saipan Tribune:
Beautify CNMI to clean up after parade

Beautify CNMI coalition partners announced yesterday that they will provide cleanup services on the tail of the Liberation Day parade.

"We’ve wanted to do something on July 4 for several years now but it wasn’t until this year that we had a way to volunteer," said Beautify CNMI coordinator Angelo Villagomez.

Beautify CNMI solid waste committee chair Joe Kaipat proposed the cleanup at the coalition’s monthly meeting yesterday.

"The coalition partners were immediately excited about the idea and set about organizing the event," said Villagomez.

He said Beautify CNMI expects about 30 volunteers but are open to having more people join them.

"Anyone who volunteers to help will be given the new edition Beautify CNMI t-shirts," Villagomez said.

The t-shirts are green and blue and designed by Dexter Mendiola, creator of the Fotten Gaga shirts.

Volunteers will also be provided with water, garbage bags, and gloves.

The group will march at the end of the parade with trash trailers and pickup trucks. They will collect trash and ask parade attendees to pitch their garbage into the trailers.

"I hope we can do this every year," Kaipat said at the meeting.

This will be the first time that the coalition has participated in the parade since providing recycling services in 2006.

More information on Beautify CNMI can be found at www.beautifycnmi.org.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Eurotrash in the Trench

A recent story in the Copenhagen Post references the Marianas Trench:
Preserve your DNA at Roskilde Festival

As always, Roskilde Festival aims to bring the participants much more than just music and mud

What do a maverick artist and a Nobel Prize winner have in common with a bunch of mud-loving music fans? All will be attending this year’s Roskilde Festival, which puts as much emphasise on humanitarian work as hard rock.

Danish conceptual artist Kristian von Hornsleth will be visiting the Roskilde festival as part of his Deep Storage Project.

[snip]

This time around, the 46-year-old artist will be collecting DNA samples from willing volunteers attending the festival. Hair and blood samples taken by trained personnel from 800 participants, together with DNA samples from around the world, will be installed in a five metre tall sculpture to be placed at the deepest part of the world’s ocean in 2010.

The futuristic and angular sculpture will be placed in the 11,000 metre deep Mariana Trench, 200 miles off of Guam Island between Japan and the Philippines, next January.
Somebody should tell them that dumping has been banned in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Director Angelo

Rotary officersLast night I was sworn in as the Rotary Club of Saipan's Director of Community Service.

angelo villagomezThat's David Igitol pinning me with my new Director pin.

The food at Palms Resort was pretty good; It was my first time eating there since it was Nikko Hotel. The buffet was set up in different "stations." There was a salad station, sukiyaki, curry, sushi, main course, and dessert.

The chicken curry was very good, served with hearty chunks of potatoes, something you don't see too often with curry on Saipan. I was also a big fan of the sukiyaki. It reminded me of the time Chiharu's Mom made us sukiyaki.

Chirst, was that really three years ago?