Friday, March 26, 2010

Town Hall Meetings Next Month

town hall meetingsRepresentative Greg Sablan (I-Saipan) will hold town hall meetings on Saipan next month. The schedule is printed on the flyer above.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2009 Mariana Trench Monument Expedition

I don't know why I didn't put this on Youtube 8 months ago. This video contains video and pictures from last year's expedition to the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

WESPAC: A Love Story

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is at it again. They are trying to create loopholes that would allow for all types of damaging commercial fishing inside the Islands Unit of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

This is so frustrating on so many levels, the first one being that what they are proposing is unconstitutional (in spirit). Have they taken the time to read our Constitution? Do they respect the laws of our people? Of course not!

Article XIV, Section 2 of of the CNMI Constitution reads:
Section 2. Uninhabited Islands. The island of Managaha shall be maintained as an uninhabited place and used only for cultural and recreational purposes. The islands of Maug, Uracas, Asuncion, Guguan and other islands specified by law shall be maintained as uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species.
What part of "used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources" do they not understand?

It is shameful, if you ask me.

So the Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument came up with a list of comments on their proposed fishing regulations.
Commentary of
Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument
Ignacio V. Cabrera – Chair
Agnes M. McPhetres – Vice Chair
Laurie Peterka – Secretary
Angelo Villagomez – Director
Bryan Jones – Director
Jane Mack – Director

Before the
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
147th Council Meeting

Concerning the
Draft Omnibus Amendment to the American Samoa Archipelago,
Mariana Archipelago and Pacific Remote Island Areas
Fishery Ecosystem Plans


Fishery Management Measures for the
Rose Atoll, Marianas Trench and Pacific Remote Island Area
Marine National Monuments

March 21, 2010

Proclamation 8335 signed on January 6, 2009 by President George W. Bush reads:

“Within the Islands Unit of the Monument, the Secretary of Commerce shall prohibit commercial fishing. Subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary of the Commerce deems necessary for the care and management of the objects of the Islands Unit, the Secretary, consistent with Executive Order 12962 of June 7, 1995, as amended, shall ensure that sustenance, recreational, and traditional indigenous fishing shall be managed as a sustainable activity consistent with other applicable law and after due consideration with respect to traditional indigenous fishing of any determination by the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

“... The Monument management plans ...shall... provide for ... traditional access by indigenous persons, as identified by the Secretaries in
consultation with the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands, for culturally significant subsistence, cultural and religious uses within the monument.”

First comment

NOTE AT PAGE 2 of the FEP amendment proposal, and also page 7-Secretary of Commerce has lead authority over fishing; but Secretary of Interior has lead authority over the monument in general. The proclamation language about management plans, including ACCESS, refers to the general management and not fishing, and is thus within the primary authority of Secretary of Interior.

The only provision of the proclamation upon which WESPAC should be offering its guidance is that related to fishing. So the FEP amendment (at pages 2, 7) that refers to the proclamation language about “traditional access by indigenous persons...for culturally significant subsistence, cultural and religious uses” is not a legal basis for authority or action in any way by WESPAC, as it is not confined or targeted at fishing.

Thus definition at 2.2.5 should be eliminated. This type of ACCESS to the Monument is the province of the Secretary of Interior.

This provision does, however, offer some guidance on HOW indigenous persons must travel to the monument for cultural purposes--by traditional means.

Second comment

The language of the proclamation that applies to fishing in the Islands Unit of the Marianas Trench National Marine Monument 1) prohibits commercial fishing; and 2) mandates that any allowed “sustenance, recreational, and traditional indigenous fishing shall be” a sustainable activity.

The “Magnusson-Stevens Act, 16 USC 1802, (MSA), defines commercial fishing.

The term “commercial fishing” means “fishing, in which the fish harvested, either in whole or in part, are intended to enter commerce or enter commerce through sale, barter or trade.”

At PAGE 3 of the FEP amendment proposal-The justification that would allow sale, barter or trade of fish caught under the non-commercial categories of fishing. This is clearly and directly inconsistent with federal law that defines commercial fishing. Recovering expenses is not a legal exception to commercial fishing. The proposal to allow sale, barter or trade of fish to recover expenses makes that fishing commercial, as the intent is for the fish to enter into the stream of commerce; paying for expenses with
fish is a commercial activity. Any such fishing must be prohibited by virtue of the absolute ban on commercial fishing in the Islands Unit of the monument.

Third comment

Nor is this justification at page 3 of the FEP amendment proposal relating to permissible sale, trade and barter of fish for expenses consistent or related in any way to sustainability of fish populations, as expenses could be so broad as to include travel of fishermen from all parts of the world, hiring charter boats, paying wages of captain and crew, paying cost of gear, fuel, and consumables on the trip, all without a cap or limit, so that a fish catch worth thousands of dollars would be permissible.

Fourth comment

WESPAC made public announcements requesting input from fishermen.

They did not similarly request input from conservationists or those supporting strong protections for the marine resources.

In reality, Friends of the Monument had less than two full days to review this proposal, which exceeds 100 pages.

Although the proposed report may be true at section 1.2 (page 8) and 1.6 (page 9) when it reports on a “public review process,” it is not complete, and is therefore inaccurate. The continued emphasis of WESPAC on fishing interests, rather than conservation interests, or even the broad interests of the public at large, is inconsistent with the needs and mandate of the Monument proclamation and the purpose of the Islands Unit.

Fifth comment

Section 1.5. The preferred definition-2.2.6-of allowable fishing is terrible. It does not draw the distinctions between the various types of fishing that are needed for a better understanding and future assessment of activity and possible impact. It allows commercial fishing, by allowing sale, barter and trade of fish, in violation of the Proclamation. It provides no basis for assessing, predicting or satisfying the mandate for sustainability.

The provision that requires federal permits and catch reports for all fishing in the Monument is good. However, it is not enough. There should also be provision for neutral monitors who may or shall ride on permitted vessels in the Monument Islands Unit.

Sixth comment

Section 1.7 is the heart of the report and is objectionable. It tries to define fishing based on the viewpoint of fishermen, who are neither linguists nor legal scholars. Their word choice for how to define themselves should not be a basis for legal categories of fishing mandated by the Proclamation and necessitated by law.

That the Fisheries Management Council has allowed others to sell fish and regard this as not being commercial is not supported by any legal definition or law. It is not a regulation or view of the law that should be adopted here (or anywhere).

Commerce is well defined. Fish that are sold are automatically in commerce. Whether the proceeds are used to offset business expenses and overhead or result in profit is irrelevant to the legal meaning of commerce.

It is contrary to the purposes of a well-defined management plan to allow 1) definitions that do not define discrete categories; 2) definitions that derail the purpose of the proclamation; 3) definitions that blur the distinctions between the categories.

Allowing this broad, undefined type of fishing will invite commercial fishermen to fish in the Monument without restriction, and will create a loophole that is so big any intelligent fishing venture will be able to fit through it.

WESPAC should define each type of fishing as best as it can. It should insist that there is no commercial fishing in the Monument, as commercial fishing is defined by the MSA. It should limit and restrict other fishing by category, based on scientific information on the harm/impact of each kind of fishing and sustainability that can be achieved with limited permission. Fishermen can select the category or categories that best fit their actual practice when seeking a permit.

Seventh comment

Sections 1.8 and 1.9 address subsistence fishing and traditional indigenous fishing and by lumping the discussion of these two types of fishing together completely blurs the real value of each and makes reasonable accommodation impossible.

Traditional indigenous fishing should for all purposes be practiced only by indigenous of the CNMI (or possibly CNMI and Guam). It should not allow for traditional indigenous fishing by persons of any other ethnicity, regardless of citizenship or nationality. It should not allow for traditional fishing by Taiwanese or Chinese or Japanese or Korean or Filipinos, all neighbors who may send fishing vessels to the area.

Traditional indigenous fishing should promote TRADITION—and therefore require access by traditional means, fishing by traditional means, and storage and return of fish by traditional means. While this may not be the practice now, it is the TRADITION, and by limiting traditional indigenous fishing to the real tradition will grant greater status and longevity to these historically significant methods, By limiting traditional indigenous fishing to real traditional practices, the regulations would help support and preserve the Chamorro and Carolinian cultures.

As these provisions now stand, there is no real tradition or significant cultural value that will be promoted. In fact, any indigenous who wanted to practice traditional fishing would find himself competing for fish stocks against vastly superior technologies.

There is also no SUSTAINABLE basis for enlarging the definition of traditional fishing. The reason that traditional fishing may be allowed is because of its small impact; but allowing all fishing as somehow traditional because the fish will eventually be eaten by people in the community (which numbers in the tens of thousands-vastly different and larger than past traditional communities), is neither legally nor culturally sound; and it is not scientifically sound as a sustainable fishing practice.

The BEST proposed definition is 2.2.4. MT 2

Eighth comment

The Alaska model for subsistence fishing is not sustainable, nor is it one that should be adopted for the Islands Unit of the monument. Also, as written, the regulations do not seem to even provide for the limited protections of the Alaska system.

Subsistence fishing in Alaska is only permitted to residents who have been resident for at least 12 months.

The real problem, however, is that subsistence fishing can hurt eco-systems. (Eg. Fiji- ). Subsistence fishing and hunting in Alaska results in takes that exceed the average per person consumption of the fish and meat that occurs in the regular population. This means that in reality, subsistence fishing under the Alaska system, is more than sustenance or subsistence.

It is unrealistic to think that anyone would actually travel to the remote northern Islands Unit of the Monument to engage in subsistence fishing as it is defined for Alaska. A much more realistic definition would be that used for the Hawaiian marine Monument.

If we used the definition from Hawaii’s management plan, we would have subsistence fishing defined as: “fishing for bottomfish or pelagic species in Monument waters in which all catch is for direct personal consumption within the Monument and that is incidental to another activity permitted under Presidential Proclamation...”

This would also allow fishing by vessels passing through the Monument on direct paths to other places, and would require monitoring and caution. But is would allow those who are in the Monument to sustain themselves on fish while there. It would not allow them to sustain others elsewhere at any time.

This would be different than fishing in the rest of the CNMI and including the other units of the Monument. In those areas closer to populated centers, subsistence fishing could and does mean fishing for the family.

Thus, of the options proposed, choose OPTION 2.2.2.-MS 5 (MS 4 would be the only other possibly acceptable alternative.)

Ninth comment

Recreational fishing can cause substantial harm to sustainability of marine eco-systems. The assumption that there will be little harm from such recreational fishing in the Islands Unit is not based on any science.

Recreational fishing is popular because it is enjoyable. Humans have a love of the sport. Fishermen who engage in recreational fishing can do many things with their experience and catch—they can eat the fish. They can stuff their fish for display and bragging rights. They can take photographs of the fish and sell the photographs. They can write articles about the fishing experience for leisure and travel and science, and sell their writing. They can use the fish for artistic purposes as in “fish prints” and sell the art. What they cannot do without sliding over into the definition of “commercial fishing” is sell, barter or trade the fish.

NONE of the proposed definitions are acceptable (2.2.3).

Tenth comment

Lumping all of the monuments in one preferred definition is also untenable, as each has its own specific proclamation with specific requirements. This approach defeats the very basis for the different proclamations and is contrary to the essential purposes and unique approach that is needed and mandated in the management of each monument.

Oppose 2.4.

Eleventh comment

The amendments offer as a choice protection from 0-50 fathoms for no-take zones or 0-50 nautical miles. The difference is staggering. The first-0-50 fathoms provides virtually no protection for the Islands Unit of the Monument. The latter provides full protection for the entire Islands Unit of the monument.

No-take zones would be useful for the full area of the proclamation protection out 50 nautical miles. This could provide protection and maintenance of the status quo and give time to do more research and get better and more current assessments before deciding on opening up the area to other potentially allowable uses, like recreational, traditional indigenous, or sustenance fishing.


Alternatively, at least provide some complete no-take zone—choose

Twelfth comment

One of the major problems with the plan to allow fishermen to recover costs associated with fishing in the Islands Unit without being considered commercial is the lack of control on how much fishing this would allow. While opposing all sale, trade, and barter of fish taken from the Islands Unit waters, if that is to be allowed in any regard for recoupment of “expenses” there must be a cap. Alternative-2.6 is worth pursuing if any sale, trade, or barter of fish from the Islands Unit waters is going to allowed.

Thirteenth comment

Re page 41-42; repeated at page 51. While fishing is a wonderful occupation, vocation, recreation, there is no evidence that it is a solution to social and political problems in the CNMI. Orbach’s opinion is not scientifically supported either sociologically or economically. The factual background that gave rise to the premise is also no longer true. The CNMI has in recent years experienced a high rate of out-migration of local people and is now experiencing a high rate of crime and juvenile delinquency, both violent and property related. However, fishing continues to be available as a means of occupation, vocation, recreation for people in the CNMI, virtually without change. Therefore, since fishing has not changed, but out-migration and crime rates have, there is no basis to support Orbach’s opinion.

WESPAC should be relying on science, not rhetoric, in deciding what policies to implement.

Fourteenth comment

The report replaces the standards set by the Proclamation for determining what fishing shall be allowed in the Islands Unit of the Monument with other standards that have no legal basis for consideration. It does so because it says there is little evidence for determining the legal standards At 4.0, WESPAC prefers to consider the impact on fishing communities, rather than on the eco-systems of the Islands Unit. In other words, WESPAC is substituting the impact on fish with the impact on fishermen. This is inconsistent with the purpose of the Monument, with the legal standards established by the proclamation, and with a scientific-based analysis. It’s also outrageous.

A better scientific approach would be to create a complete no-take zone for the entire Islands Unit of the monument and do research that establishes current data from which better decisions can be made. (There is insufficient current scientific data to support 4.2.1).

Also, as noted in comment 13, the reliance on Orbach’s “suggestions” about the social value of fishing is scientific nonsense.

Fifteenth comment

The impact on administration is a relevant consideration as it helps figure out what can reasonably be done. However, there are phrases slipped into the impact portion that are not related to other textual references and suggest that standards even broader than these amendments are in play. For example, at page 76, “expense sales up to the poverty threshold” is used, but nowhere is a poverty threshold defined.

The impact also assumed that the CNMI government has capacity to engage in permitting and reporting enforcement; yet the CNMI government has been weak in regards to these activities in general. The responsibility for management and enforcement of the Monument can be shared, but the US should not be allowed to pass the responsibility to the CNMI, which has worse economic problems and no budget for such enforcement. If federal funds are to be used for enforcement, then federal agency involvement can be had, as well.

Sixteenth comment

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution expressly states at Article 12, Section 2: Uninhabited Islands. The island of Managaha shall be maintained as an uninhabited place and used only for cultural and recreational purposes. The islands of Maug, Uracas, Asuncion, Guguan and other islands specified by law shall be maintained as uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species. [emphasis added]

WESPAC appears to have neglected the CNMI Constitution’s mandate entirely in its deliberation processes. We recommend that the CNMI Constitution is very clear about the management of the resources associated with the Marianas Trench MNM - Islands Unit. This is a perfect example of a “one-size-fits-all” approach not working on a localized level.
I wanted to make sure that WESPAC had a copy of this, so I emailed a copy to their executive director, Kitty Simonds, along with a short note:
Hi Kitty,

Can you make sure this gets entered into the record? I'm not really sure how you guys function.

Please see attached document. It contains the 11 comments by the Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument on the proposed fishing regulations for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Feel free to share this with anyone who would be interested.

Within an hour I got a response from their outreach & education coordinator, Sylvia Spalding:

Regarding your message below, please note that Ken Kramer sent earlier today what looks to be the same document you have sent but with slightly different formatting. We have encouraged Ken to participate in the Council meeting and present the comments orally to the Council today or tomorrow. The Council meeting runs until 5 p.m. on both days.

The Council process has not changed significantly from two years ago when you attended the Council meeting on Guam. Our Council process booklet can be downloaded from our website at

Thank you,
Sylvia Spalding
Isn't it kind of creepy that they keep tabs on people like that?

So I checked out the website and it's impossible to navigate. Where the hell is the Council process booklet?

I can probably safely assume that our testimony was accepted, right? I mean, I sent it to their executive director and I know they got it because they responded. They wouldn't just ignore it, would they?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One Week in Washington, DC

Under the Pala Pala XII – One Week in Washington, DC

Island Decisions and Island Opinions are made Under the Pala Pala

Last month I traveled to Washington, DC to assist Agnes McPhetres in testifying before the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife on behalf of the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument. I also helped set up and participated in several meetings with federal officials, including Subcommittee staff, the staff of Representative Gregorio Kilili, and officials with NOAA Office of Marine National Sanctuaries, and others. We were unable to meet with anyone in Interior; they were busy with the Coral Reef Task Force meetings and were dealing with the passing of their Director.

Our week in our nation’s Capital was well spent. We traveled there to express our support for Representative Sablan’s H.R. 3511 and our opposition to Representative Madeleine Bordallo’s H.R. 4493. While we were there we picked up a lot of useful information and I would like to pass this along to the people living in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and those who are concerned with the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and other related marine issues.

But first I would like to reiterate why I, along with the Friends of the Monument, support Sablan’s bill and oppose Bordallo’s bill. We are opposed to Bordallo’s bill for three reasons:

1. H.R. 4493 violates the promises made by the United States Government.
2. H.R. 4493 includes the Government Guam in the management of marine resources fully contained within the CNMI’s jurisdiction.
3. H.R. 4493 ties the management of the Mariana Trench Monument to the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, which according to Guam Public Law 23-24 is not recognized by the people of Guam.

When the Mariana Trench Monument was declared, the Government of the United States of America promised the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that the monument would lead to the construction of a visitors center in the CNMI and the funding of vessels to access the area. H.R. 4493 would transfer these social and economic benefits from CNMI to Guam.

H.R. 4493 would also give Guam a seat on the Monument Advisory Panel and a role in the monument management plan. Bordallo argues that Guam should have a seat at the table because the monument includes their marine resources and because Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the ocean, is near Guam. That is untrue. There are no marine resources within 400 miles of Guam’s shore protected by the monument. The Islands Unit, the federal waters surrounding the CNMI islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asunction, is the only unit of the larger monument that includes marine protections. The Trench Unit and the Volcanic Unit, the units that come within 60 miles of Guam, are not marine protected areas. They do not protect marine resources; they simply recognize unique geological features at the bottom of the ocean. And Challenger Deep lies outside the borders of the monument. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Federated States of Micronesia and is not owned by the United States.

Finally, H.R. 4493 would tie the management of the Mariana Trench Monument in with the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. Doing so would create chaos and would inhibit the development of a monument management plan. Guam P.L. was passed “to prohibit the Government of Guam from entering into cooperative agreements with respect to the so-called Wildlife Refuge administered by the U.S. Department of Interior at the property in the northern area of Guam that was formerly the U.S. Naval Facility and to prohibit the use of Government of Guam resources and personnel in any manner that could be construed as supporting continuous federal holding of such properties.” To put it bluntly, H.R 4493 is in direct conflict with the laws of Guam.

This is just a quick summary of our testimony. If you are interested you can read the more detailed Testimony of the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and Testimony of Agnes McPhetres.

Then before I get into what we learned during our week in Washington, DC, I would just like to point out that from an environmentalist’s point of view, this whole process is a good thing. It is exciting that there is so much interest in the Marianas Trench Monument that the CNMI and Guam are working out which jurisdiction should have the larger role in its management. Imagine if the opposite were true; imagine if there was no interest in marine conservation. I prefer the current situation.

Representative Bordallo also deserves thanks for allowing this discussion and the Subcommittee hearing to take place. As the Chair she could easily push her bill through to the Committee level. She should be commended for taking the time to listen to the people of the CNMI and for allowing the 150+ letters written by our people to be introduced into the record.

By the way, how many people living on Guam submitted letters?

As this moves forward, it will be important to keep in mind that Bordallo is the Subcommittee Chair. She’s going to use her position to make sure she gets something. I’m just hopeful that a fair compromise can be worked out.

Placing the visitors center and headquarters in the CNMI must be non-negotiable, however. Promises were made by the United States Government and those promises have to be kept, but there must be a way to include Guam in the management plan of the geological resources of the monument as long as they agree that they should have no role in the management of the marine resources seeing as they are entirely within the jurisdiction of the CNMI.

Should Bordallo push ahead with including Guam in the management plan of the marine resources of the monument by changing the Antiquities Act declaration, one compromise could be legislating the Trench Unit into a no-take marine protected area. There is no commercial, recreational, subsistence, or sustenance fishing in that area today, so this would be a non-controversial, win-win move. CNMI would then no longer have an argument for not including Guam in the management plan and it would also turn the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument into the second largest marine protected area on the planet, another win-win. Another compromise would be to expand the Islands Unit to include Stingray Shoals, an area identified by NOAA as having the highest remaining shark densities in the Pacific, and the boiling pools of sulfur west of Maug, the universe’s only known sulfur pools outside Jupiter’s moon Io.

Also, if Bordallo is going to attempt to tie the monument to the Guam National Wildlife Refuge in an attempt to secure funds to manage and expand their existing Nature Center, she should start by pushing the Guam Senate to change Public Law 23-24 to officially recognize the Wildlife Refuge.

Now with all that out of the way, what exactly did we learn during our trip?

We learned from Eileen Sobeck, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks that there was no funding request made for the monument for 2011. The 2012 fiscal year does not begin until October 1, 2011; that is the earliest date funding to develop a management plan will be available. It is 9 months after the deadline imposed by the monument declaration.

We learned that 90% of the National Wildlife Refuges do NOT have visitors centers. That is a sobering thought and invalidates the argument that Guam and CNMI can each have a Marianas Trench Visitors Center. In all likelihood there will be no visitors center as long as United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the manager of the monument; and if there is one, there will only be one, not two.

There will also someday likely be a headquarters for this monument. USFWS officials have already expressed to us how easy it would be to house this headquarters on Guam. There is already an USFWS office on Guam and staff on Guam. All they’d have to do is add a few desks and allowing Guam on the Monument Advisory Panel makes this even more likely. If Governor Fitial wants to see those federal jobs come to the CNMI, he needs to change his position and oppose including Guam in the management scheme.

We learned that USFWS is always under-funded; their budget for the entire Pacific was under $1 million last year. Sobeck said that a visitors center typically costs about $7 million to build. You do the math.

We also learned that any monument educational programs as administered by USFWS would likely be volunteer driven, not paid, otherwise they would have to be initiated by the Friends of the Monument.

Clearly, the monument as is, the monument the leaders of the CNMI said they “negotiated,” is not the monument requested by any of the Friends of the Monument.

In our testimony we made the suggestion to transfer management authority from USFWS to NOAA Sanctuaries. We learned from different sources that this would be very difficult, that Congress tries not to amend Antiquities Act declarations. Another option would be for National Parks to take over from USFWS. We learned that this also has political ramifications and would be difficult, if not impossible.

Not all was bad; we also learned some good things. We learned that NOAA Sanctuaries could still build a visitors center in the CNMI although USFWS is the monument’s manager. They told us about the Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West, Florida. The Eco-Discovery Center features numerous exhibits that interpret the resources and management efforts of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, two national parks, and four national wildlife refuges. Exhibits include aspects of history, geography, and culture, as well as nature.

Something similar could exist in the CNMI, in fact, funding is already available that could design such a facility. On December 16, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the “FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriation Act (HR 3288)” which included an $220,000 earmark for the CNMI Department of Lands & Natural Resources.

In a letter to DLNR Secretary Ignacio Dela Cruz dated December 30, 2009, Representative Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan stated that the funds could be used to “develop a process for engaging input from the public to create a visitor and education center that will incorporate our existing marine protected areas and the new Marianas Trench National Monument.”

All Governor Fitial would have to do to move this forward is to write to NOAA Sanctuaries requesting their support and expertise in designing and implementing a plan for the “Angelo O’Connor Villagomez Eco-Discovery Center.”

We can work out the name later if somebody takes issue with it.

I know there is a lot of information contained in this letter and that I jump around a bit, but I hope it helps you wrap your brain around the many issues and players surrounding the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

It is never too late to have your voice heard. You can write a letter to Governor Fitial, Representaive Sablan, Representative Bordallo, President Obama, or any other elected official to share with them your hopes for this monument. I am always available to assist in any way possible.


Under the Pala Pala is the regular commentary of environmentalist and erstwhile politician Angelo O’Connor Villagomez. Pala pala is the Chamorro word for an outdoor shelter traditionally made of wood and thatch used for staying out of the sun, cooking, eating, drinking, singing, and talking. Sign up to subscribe via email at

Skype: saipanblogger

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Butterfly Garden Blossoms

Six years ago I helped my stepfather, Jim, by planting a butterfly garden in front of one of his rental houses. I'd guess that about half of the plants that I planted from six years ago are still alive today (there was a really bad freeze this year and it killed a lot of the plants).

Just about all of the lantana plants in the garden survived.

VerbenaceaeThere are several varieties of lantana growing in the garden right now and I am sad to report that I don't know the names for any of them other than they are all lantanas. This multi-colored variety has grown from a seedling into a bush that comes up to my shoulders. There are six big bushes like this growing in the yard right now.

VerbenaceaeThese blue (or are they purple?) blossoms are on a lantana hat grows into a bush about two feet tall.

VerbenaceaeAlthough not pictured, there are also several white lantana plants growing in the garden. Instead of growing into bushes, they grow like ground cover.

VerbenaceaeWhen I planted all these saplings six years ago I thought I was buying the same kind of plant, just with different color blossoms. I had no idea they'd all grow into different mature forms.

On a side note, lantana on Saipan grows like a week and has thorns. It has overgrown entire fields. Here in Florida we put it in our gardens and it attracts butterflies. I prefer the Florida variety.

wild plumThese are plum blossoms. In Japan they are called "ume" (oo-me). There are three plum trees doing very well in the garden.

florida umePlum blossoms look very similar to cherry blossoms. I'm color blind, so I have no idea if these are white or pink, but these blossoms sprout and then about a week later fall off.

plum blossomsAnyone who has been to Japan during cherry blossom season knows how beautiful these trees look in the Spring.

ume treeFor one week out of the year the plum trees are the most beautiful trees on the block.

Yesterday we did some maintenance on the butterfly garden; we replaced some of the plants that were killed in this year's freeze and we put down weed fabric and pine bark. We also sprayed for bugs.

We got our plants at a nursery out in Oviedo. They were able to give us a really good price, but as much as I wanted to buy them, I refused to pay $29.99 for a Coontie Palm. Every other plant we bought was in the $4-$10 range.

butterfly plantsMost of the plants I use are wild flowers. They aren't as showy as some ornamentals, but you can see from the photos above that they are just as beautiful. Plus, they have the added benefit of attracting butterflies.

The plants all kind of look like a bunch of weeds in the photo above, don't they? I promise they'll look better when they've had a few weeks and months to grow.

This is a before photo of one corner of the garden, right next to the driveway. Notice all the weeds.

This is after I put down the weed fabric and the wood chips and filled in some of the spaces with plants. It is a big improvement.

After I finished planting I laid down an entire bag of grass seed in between my butterfly plants. I watered yesterday and went back over there today to water it again. If you are reading this, please pray for rain.

The house is now up for rent if you are interested. It is in the Winter Park area right down the street from the high school. Call the number in the picture above for more information. Tell them you read about it on the Saipan Blog and ask for the special Internet rate.

Loyalty! Integrity! Honor! Friendship!

ben fitialThat's the current CNMI Governor and First Lady, Mr. and Mrs. Benigno Fitial, with the immediate past CNMI Governor and First Lady, Mr. and Mrs. Juan Babauta, at the big table at Godfathers.

cnmi governorSomebody with the pseudonym John Taotaomona emailed me these four photos with the subject "The Republican Way!" The photos are individually labeled Loyalty, Integrity, Honor, and Friendship.

Seriously? What's the big deal?

For better or for worse, the two men share the distinction of having led the CNMI as governor. What's the big deal with them getting together for some cheap red wine and Bud Lites? At least they're out in the open and not in a back room secretly plotting against us with executives from Big Energy.

poker addictI'm more annoyed that they're hanging out with Senator Poker Arcade. I asked the self-proclaimed "mainland" Democrat for a $20 donation during my campaign and he told me he was supporting the Republicans. True, I only did it to show the person I was having lunch with that he was a tightwad, but still, $20? He makes that much money in poker arcade revenue every 0.0004 seconds. You'd think he could spare some change for a fellow "mainland" Democrat.

susuAnd furthermore, I think just about everybody on the island of Saipan has had their picture taken with either Fitial or Babauta. It's not that big of a deal.

Department of Justice, too?

I received an email the other day from the Department of Homeland Security employee I found reading the Saipan Blog. Turns out she's moving to Saipan and was looking for information about the island online.

Crisis averted.

Except that now someone at the Department of Justice is reading my blog. This is from the blog track on "The Saipan Blog: Daily OSB:"

department of justiceThey visited 81 unique pages on Daily OSB and the last page they visited had...a picture of a sunset.

Oh no!

I'm working on two Under the Pala Palas. One is a recap of my week in Washington, DC (which I'll probably send to the newspapers) and the other is about how the CNMI contributes to Climate Change (contrary to some opinions that we don't).

I haven't blasted one out in over two weeks. I'm due.

Speaking of Under the Pala Pala, my email list continues to grow. Those of you who have been on the Beautify CNMI list for several years know that I've been sending weekly updates for some time now. I was hesitant to use that list for my campaign for Mayor and started completely from scratch on a new one...less than two months before the election.

I started my campaign much too late. Still, I managed to receive several online donations and I think my email list was a big part of that. After the election I decided to keep on paying for the email service and what was once my campaign email list is now the list for Under the Pala Pala, my regular commentary.

My list is now has twice as many subscribers as I did on the day of the election and it continues to grow every day. To join people simply have to input their email address on this blog and then they are sent a confirmation email.

Every time I send out one of my commentaries I get at least a dozen responses. I enjoy that interaction with my readers.

I might write a blog in more detail about the service I use because I'm pretty happy with it.

And now I'm rambling, so I'll stop there.

New online training course for reef managers now available

I'm going to take this online course. You can, too, if you want.
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with NOAA and with support from MacArthur Foundation, is offering a new virtual training program on Reef Resilience to provide coral reef managers, trainers, and policymakers guidance on building resilience to climate change into the design of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and daily management activities.

The course incorporates the new science, lessons learned, case studies, and practices that have been included in the on-line Reef Resilience toolkit and is designed to accelerate the knowledge and facilitate access to essential information and tools needed to incorporate resilience principles into management strategies.

While the focus of this course is on the problem of coral bleaching and actions that managers can take to address this problem, specifically in the context of Marine Protected Areas, the recommendations and tools can be applied to most threats that coral reefs face today. The program includes key aspects such as:

* An introduction to mass coral bleaching and the ecological and social impacts

* Description of the four main principles of resilience and how to identify factors of resilience

* Recommendations on the design and management of resilient MPAs

This course is free and open to anyone interested in learning about Reef Resilience.

How to enroll in the course
This free online course is available for you to work through at your own pace. Here are the steps to begin the training:

1. Navigate to
2. If you have not already done so, create an account on ConservationTraining by clicking the 'Create new account' link
3. Once your account is created and confirmed, log into ConservationTraining and click 'Reef Resilience - Self-paced' course
4. Enter the course and begin by reading the course description and syllabus

If you'd like more information about Reef Resilience and/or the online course please email

Sunday, March 14, 2010

O'Connor Walsh McGarry Villagomez

The next time I run for office I am going to use my full name: Angelo O'Connor Walsh McGarry Garrido Pangelinan Villagomez. That will ensure I get the Irish-Chamorro vote (all five of them), and hopefully everyone else will think those names are Chamorro names from Maug or something. It might just work.

cady way parkWith that important thought out of the way, what do you think of my new haircut?

On a completely different topic, the weather in Orlando was beautiful this weekend. Yesterday afternoon I took my bike for a long spin and timed my ride so that I could go watch Tiana's softball game at 3 PM.

young cal ripkenTiana's team's colors are the same as my high school alma mater. Go Winter Park Wildcats!

Tiana is her team's catcher and gets a lot of play time. They played three innings and she got to bat twice. She's third in the lineup. My favorite thing about watching her play was seeing VILLAGOMEZ printed in block letters across the back of her jersey. I want one! I don't think I've been on a team where I had a jersey with my name across the back.

citrus restaurant orange avenueI've got extended family living in town for the first time, well, ever. The Hanlons have invaded Florida. Julie moved down from Worcester last week and Alex treated us to dinner at a restaurant called Citrus on Orange Avenue in Orlando. I had the scallops and a tomato and mozzarella salad. Good stuff.

old lady wearing a tiaraMolly is in town, too. I'm not sure why she's wearing that tiara. Might have something to do with her granddaughter sitting on her lap.

Saipan Tiger Shark

I stole this photo from the blog of Linda Tareau, a biology teacher on Guam who got to tag along on a NOAA cruise as part of their Teachers at Sea program (yet another reason the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument would prefer the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument be managed by NOAA Sanctuaries rather than US Fish & Wildlife Service). Linda spent four weeks on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette and blogged about her experience on her blog Fish 250.

First of all, how can I get one of these gigs? I've got a blog, but I'm not a teacher or a scientist. Could I swab the decks? Cook everyone dinner?

Second, how cool is that Tiger Shark? And how not cool are the fishing lines and hooks he's got stuck on his dorsal fin?

The shark is following a BRUV, which I'm guessing stands for Baited Remote Underwater Vehicle. I could probably google BRUV and know for sure, but it's a pretty good guess. Final answer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art & Politics

baldwin park arts festivalThe 3rd Annual Baldwin Park Arts Festival is tomorrow from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM in, where else, Baldwin Park. With the exception of a google map pointing to Baldwin Park, there is hardly information about this art festival anywhere on the Internet. The art festival website is pretty much useless and only has information on how to send them money or enter your work.

If it doesn't rain tomorrow I'll probably ride my ***new*** bike over there and check it out.

Kendrick Meek, Democratic candidate for United States Senate, will also be in town tomorrow for what his campaign is calling a "petition raiser." Meek is trying to become the first Senate candidate in Florida history to qualify by gathering signatures, rather than paying the registration fee. I think it's a good grassroots organizing strategy and we'll know in 8 months if it pays off.

The "petition raiser" is tomorrow from 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM at the Hall of UAW Local 788 on 1825 W. Oak Ridge Road.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Homeland Security tracking the Saipan Blogger

department of homeland securityI check my blog stats about once every....10 minutes. Mostly I like to see what phrases people are using to find my blog, but sometimes I check to see what countries and what servers are viewing my blog.

Imagine my surprise today when I saw that somebody at the Department of Homeland Security was reading my blog.

Uh oh.

It wasn't me, I swear.

Ian Swings by Orlando

cheesecake factory beerThat's a picture of me drinking a really big beer at the Cheesecake Factory. You'll notice that my pinky is slightly extended; I'm going to have to work on that.

Ian was in town the other day. He's on a whirlwind tour of the East Coast and drove up to Orlando from Tampa. We had a fun day out on the town. We started with coffee and a bagel in Winter Park where I showed him my old stomping grounds from high school and college. Then we stopped at home so he could see my Mom and Jim. After that we drove out to the Mall at Millenia where he spent too much money at Hugo Boss and I spent too much money on a haircut (but at least I look like a fatter, older Zac Efron now).

Later we had dinner at Roy's, which is my favorite restaurant in Orlando.

roys orlandoWe didn't have a reservation and the only seats they had were the bar stools up against the kitchen: the best seats in the house.

They usually give you free appetizers when you sit up there, sort of a consolation prize for not sitting at a table. It kept me happy. They gave us some edamame, two fried spring rolls, and two fried wontons. We also ordered calamari.

shutomeI had the shutome, which Seafood Watch says is alright to long as its not caught by foreign fishing vessels. It was really good, served on spuds and topped with spinach, gorgonzala cheese, and a blue crab chardonnay cream sauce. Good stuff.

For dessert I ordered two of Roy's chocolate souffles, Roy Yamaguchi's gift to world cuisine.

And unbelievably, one of the waiters is a Chamorro guy from Guam! I gave him one of my cards and maybe we'll butcher a pig and have a BBQ in my mom's backyard one of these days.

Marianas Trench Cave Museum

matias taisacanMatias Taisacan is a marketing genius.

While Guam Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D) and CNMI Representative Gregorio Sablan (I) duke out which island gets a Marianas Trench Visitors Center and Headquarters, Matias quietly changed the name of his museum from "Rota Cave Museum" to "Marianas Trench Cave Museum." People in CNMI have known about what is now the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument since January 2007 and Matias is the first, and so far the only, person to use the iconic Marianas Trench to market, well, anything in the Marianas.

When Dr. Tom Iverson gave his economic presentations in the early part of 2008, these are the kind of opportunities he said the monument would create. Matias' cave is a natural limestone cave filled with relics from World War II, but if you are on Rota are you going to make a point to visit the Marianas Trench Cave Museum? Doesn't that sound interesting and exciting? Of course!

marianas trench museumThere has been world wide attention focused on the Marianas because of the designation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (and Governor Fitial's late night massages). It is in the best interest of the businesses in the CNMI to take advantage of that. Everyone has heard of the Mariana Trench and visitors to Saipan might not know how close the Marianas are to the Mariana Trench.

Until the Marianas Visitors Authority starts marketing the Marianas as the gateway to the Mariana Trench, businesses can gain an advantage over other businesses by using the Mariana Trench name. Then when people around the world figure out that the Marianas are the home of the Mariana Trench, through a combination of marketing and increased interest in science and research, the Marianas will use the Mariana Trench to gain an advantage over other tourist destinations, like that island to the south of us with the highest density of snakes in the world.

You like snakes, right?

One last thing:

Matias might want to consider adding this to his sign: マリアナ海溝

That's Mariana Trench in Japanese.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Glenn Beck on AOV

Oh, will the wonders of the Internet never cease?

Gotta Keep Reading

I heard this on XL 106.7 this morning. Ocoee Middle School made this song and video and when Oprah saw it, she brought them on the show and promised to buy them 2000 books...and refurbish their media center with new furniture and computers from Target (that's what they call libraries these days).

Earth Hour in CNMI

On March 27th at 8:30pm the Division of Environmental quality is encouraging CNMI residents and businesses to turn their lights off for one hour in support of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sponsored Earth Hour event that seeks to raise awareness and promote global action on climate change.

In 2007 the city of Sydney, Australia decided to take a stand against global climate change by turning off their lights for one hour. This was the beginning of what has become the largest world wide event calling for action on climate change: Earth Hour.

Since its beginnings in Sydney, Earth Hour has grown exponentially in its scope and world wide participation. In 2009, 4,159 cities, towns, and municipalities from 88 different countries participated in the event. 100s of millions of people turned out their lights in an effort to raise awareness and promote action on climate change. In 2010 we will add the CNMI to that voice.

Being an island nation, the CNMI will be amongst the countries most affected by climate change. Due to our low elevation, rising sea levels put out buildings, homes, and infrastructure at risk. Increasing ocean temperatures threaten the health of the coral reefs that we depend on for food, tourism, and recreation. Higher probabilities of large storms and droughts stand to greatly affect our local agriculture.

Participating in Earth Hour will help to raise local awareness about the risks and causes of climate change as well as add to the global effort to convince leaders world wide that the time for action on climate change is now.

WWF and its local DEQ partners ask for community support to help spread the word about Earth Hour and to turn lights off between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on Saturday March 27th. More information can be found at or at our local CNMI website:

Interested in volunteering to help with the Earth Hour campaign? Have any great ideas or recommendations that can add to the success of Earth Hour in the CNMI? Contact Aric Bickel at or at 664-8513.

Monday, March 08, 2010

New Toys

schwinn ranger mountain bikeI splurged yesterday and bought myself some new toys. My first purchase was a new mountain bike! I haven't owned a bike since high school and I am totally stoked. I took it for a spin today and went to see my (former) academic advisor at Rollins. It was great riding through the old neighborhood.

I finally got a phone, too. I bought a Motorola Devour, the phone Megan Fox hawked during the Super Bowl. The phone has MOTOBLUR, which I like because it integrates MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter into one place on the phone. It let's you update all three at the same time with the touch of a button and tracks messages from all three social networking sites, Gmail, and texting in one place. My only complaint is that the camera sucks.

I'll probably start complaining when I get the first bill.

I also bought some new socks and dog treats to send to Saipan, but they're not as fun to play with as a bike or a phone.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sexual Trafficking Hotbed

I was reading a blog about human trafficking in Saipan and found this statement to be unbeleivable:
The program has been in existence for 2 years and has helped 62 women survivors of sexual trafficking
The blog goes on to define human trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, or receipt of people for the purposes of slavery, forced labor, and servitude."


That's one trafficking victim for nearly every 1000 people living on Saipan.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Transformer Base to be Buffered with Marine Reserve

optimus primeThe waters surrounding Autobot Headquarters in Diego Garcia are poised to be set aside as the world's largest marine reserve.
The proposed marine reserve would protect a group of 55 islands located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Known as the Chagos Archipelago, the islands and their surrounding waters cover 210,000 square miles (544,000 square kilometers), an area larger than France. With some of the cleanest seas in the world, the islands are home to one of the most ecologically healthy coral reef systems on the planet.
You can visit the Pew Environment Group's Global Ocean Legacy website for more information on this exciting development.

FOX NEWS: We Don't Like Reading

Al Gore had an op-ed in last Sunday's New York Times called, "We Can't Wish Away Climate Change." FOX News' first criticism of the piece was that it was too long. At 1900 words it is just barely longer than a Freshman college student's first English 101 assignment, which according to FOX News is way too many words for the Oscar-winning, Nobel Peace Prize-receiving 45th Vice President of the United States to use on a topic like climate change.

Wouldn't a sound bite have sufficed? Why did he have to use all those words? And come on, doesn't he know that it snowed this winter in New England?

I'm an Al Gore fan. I voted for him in 2000; it was my first time voting. I appreciate all the work he has done raising awareness of Climate Change and I think the world we live in would be very different if Florida hadn't given George W. Bush a 537 vote edge over Gore.

When I read about people criticizing Climate Change I think about Majuro Bridge, which connects the Majuro International Airport to the main port of Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

Majuro Marshall Islands BridgeAt its highest point the Majuro Bridge is about 12 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a nation of just under 60,000 people.

The United States is going to be the last nation on Earth to deal with the effects of Climate Change. We are rich enough that we can pay for any damages and big enough to absorb most of the negative effects.

Majuro? Not so much.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

ACTION ALERT: You have until Friday to submit testimony in support of fulfilling the promises made by the United States Government

Under the Pala Pala XI – ACTION ALERT: You have until Friday to submit testimony in support of fulfilling the promises made by the United States Government

Island Decisions and Island Opinions are made Under the Pala Pala

All your letters, emails, and testimony have paid off. Guam Representative Madeleine Bordallo has bowed to political pressure and has decided to co-sponsor Representative Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan’s H.R. 3511. That is something to celebrate!

Unfortunately, Bordallo is still sponsoring H.R. 4493, which would negate H.R. 3511 and transfer the social, educational, and economic benefits of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument to Guam.

That means there is still work to be done. Representative Bordallo is a reasonable person and I believe she will pull her bill when she realizes that it violates the promises made by the United States Government and is unfair to the people of the CNMI who asked that the monument be created.

In a perfect world, all Bordallo would have to understand is that the United States Government gave their word to the people of the CNMI that the monument would result in the construction of a Mariana Trench Visitors Center and Headquarters in the CNMI. H.R. 4493 places the visitors center and headquarters on Guam, violating that promise. That alone should be reason to pull H.R. 4493.

It is frustrating that Bordallo would attempt to place a federally funded visitors center on Guam when the island already has a privately funded marine visitors center along their main tourist drag called UnderWater World and a Guam National Wildlife Refuge Nature Center. If the Mariana Trench Visitors Center ends up on Guam, Guam would have a nature center and two competing marine visitors centers, while the CNMI had none.

It is also frustrating that Bordallo is trying to give Guam a seat at the table in managing the CNMI’s marine resources, which I do not think is right or fair. H.R. 4493 was introduced under the premise that Guam was left out of the management of the marine resources inside the monument close to Guam, when in fact there are no marine resources protected by the monument near Guam. The Trench Unit and the Volcanic Unit, which extend into the submerged federal lands near Guam, are not marine protected areas. They do not protect a single fish or a single coral polyp; nor do they affect a single fisherman, scuba diver, marine sports operator, boat captain, or resident of Guam.

This is not to say that Guam should stop looking for federal dollars to educate their public on marine protections. They have every right to ask the US Fish & Wildlife Service to expand their existing Guam National Wildlife Refuge Nature Center, but it is an underhanded ruse to associate something that is not a marine protected area with a plan to tout Guam’s marine environment.

The Empress has no clothes and I’m calling her on it.

There is still time to add your voice to the chorus that is calling for a Mariana Trench Visitors Center and Headquarters to be built in the CNMI. Please take a few minutes to write a letter to Bordallo asking her to pull H.R. 4493 because it violates the promises made by the United States Government to the people of the CNMI.

Your letter should be addressed to Bordallo because she is the Subcommittee Chair. You can snail mail it the address below or email it to her at IMPORTANT: Make sure you send a copy of your letter to Representative Sablan’s Office at You can also drop off a copy at his district office in Susupe.

Here is a draft to help you write your letter:
Representative Madeleine Z Bordallo
Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife
427 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Representative Bordallo,

My name is [insert your name] and I live in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. [Please give some information about your role in the creation of the monument. Did you sign a petition? Write a letter to the President? A letter to the editor?]

I am writing to you today to ask you to pull H.R. 4493, the“Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Management Enhancement Act of 2010,” as it would violate the promises made by the United States Government when the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was designated on January, 6, 2009. The United States Government promised a Monument Visitors Center and Headquarters would be built in CNMI and H.R. 4493 would transfer those educational, social, and economic benefits to Guam, with no benefit to CNMI.

Please help the people of the CNMI realize the promises made to them by the United States Government and support the construction of a Mariana Trench Visitors Center and Headquarters in the CNMI.

[You could include something about your hopes for the monument here]

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter,


[Your name]

cc: Representative Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan
Honorable Governor Felix Camacho
Honorable Governor Ben Fitial
If you need any help with your letter, I am available. You can email me at or

More information on this issue can be found on The Saipan Blog at You can also read the Testimony of the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and Under the Pala Pala X for a fuller explanation of what is going on.


Under the Pala Pala is the regular commentary of environmentalist and erstwhile politician Angelo O’Connor Villagomez. Pala pala is the Chamorro word for an outdoor shelter traditionally made of wood and thatch used for staying out of the sun, cooking, eating, drinking, singing, and talking. Sign up to subscribe via email at

Skype: saipanblogger

Eden and the Maltese Mutts

edz saipanEdz took the dogs for a walk in Garapan tonight and asked a tourist to take these photos. She sent me about 12 photos and what caught my eye was not the pretty girl and the goofy dogs, but the buildings in the background.

This is Saipan's main tourist drag and tourists take pictures of themselves there all the time. What do they see when they take their pictures back home? Girly bar after girly bar after girly bar...and Subway.

maltese terrier puppiesThe red eye remover on my MacBook Pro made the dogs eyes kind of scary, don't you think?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Carnival of the Blue XXXIV

carnival of the blueCarnival of the Blue 34 is now posted at Southern Fried Science.

Carnival of the blue is a rotating monthly compilation of the "best of" ocean blogging, bringing together ocean bloggers and readers and (hopefully) using new media to build a virtual community of ocean lovers. The Carnival lives on the blogs of community members and has been hosted here on Saipan Blog in the month of September for three years running: 2009, 2008, 2007. You can visit Carnival of the Blue headquarters for links to all the carnivals since ever since.

I forgot to send in a submission this month. Oh well, there's always April.

One Week in Washington, DC

Agnes McPhetres and I just spent four days knocking on doors in Washington, DC telling our story and sharing our concerns about the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Our goal is to ensure that the United States Government keeps its promises to the people of the Northern Mariana Islands and places a monument headquarters and visitors center in the CNMI.

Here are some photos of people we met along the way:

Agnes and I met with Representative Sablan and his staff several times last week. This photo made it into Kilili's weekly email to constituents.

That's Sylvan Igisomar, CNMI Director of Fish & Wildlife. Sylvan's Dad and my Dad were delegates to the CNMI's first Constitutional Convention. Sylvan was in town for the Coral Reef Task Force Meeting and to assist Governor Fitial with his testimony before the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife.

noaa andew winerThat's Allen Tom from the Pacific Island Region of NOAA Santuaries. We ran into him a few times during the week and had dinner with him one night. We first met him back in 2008 when it looked like the monument was going to be given to NOAA Sanctuaries. The other man in the photo is Andrew Winer who is NOAA's Director of External Affairs.

Fran Castro was in DC for the Coral Reef Task Force Meeting. Fran works for CNMI DEQ and is the Chair of MINA. She was also my boss for a couple of weeks. Fran and MINA were very important supporters of the monument leading up to its designation.

It's a small world after all. I ran into Kate "Texas Thunder" Alexander in the Metro. We went to college together at Rollins.

I would like to note that I lost my hat sometime between the time this photo was taken and the day I left DC. Dang it!

lynn knightLynn Knight was one of our most important supporters in the run up to the creation of the mnument. We met her at Thursday's hearing.

noaa sanctuariesThat's the head of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Dan Basta. We asked him if NOAA Sanctuaries could establish a presence in the Northern Mariana Islands, starting with the planning and construction of a Mariana Trench Visitors Center. Agnes and I left the meeting feeling optimistic.

My grey suit fit me when I bought it about six months ago. One downside of running for office is stress. I eat when I'm stressed. I get fat when I eat.

lily nguyenWhile I've been a bad Rotarian and haven't attended a single meeting since I left Saipan, I did manage to spend some time with Rotarian Lily and her significant other (Jay's holding the camera). Plus, Agnes is a Rotarian and I was with her for four days, so does that could for anything? I didn't think so either.

We had several other meetings, but I felt like a dork asking people I had just met if we could take a photo with them. I'll feel more comfortable next time around, perhaps.

New York Times, BABY!!!

Today's New York Times carries a story about last Thursday's Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife hearing. And are you ready for this: I'm quoted!
Marianas Says U.S. Has Failed to Fulfill Ocean Monument Promises

More than a year after President George W. Bush created a vast marine national monument near the Northern Marianas Islands, the federal government has yet to make good on promised investments in the islands.

Bush created three marine monuments near U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean just weeks before he left the White House, part of a bid for a positive environmental legacy. The largest marine reserve, the Marianas Trench National Monument, encompasses nearly 61 million acres of submerged areas and waters and is the world's third-largest ocean reserve.

The designation was hailed in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The islands' leaders said the reserve would bring international attention and federal investment, but they say they have been left empty-handed. The monument has no advisory council, no management plan and no plans for a visitor center or science education outreach.


Marianas citizens who supported the monument expected it to bring environmental, economic and social benefits and gain worldwide recognition for their islands, said Angelo O'Connor Villagomez, director of Friends of the Monument that advocated for the designation. But so far, he said, there has been only recognition.

"That part is exciting, that people are getting interested," Villagomez said. "We're just waiting for the federal government to catch up."

Friends of the Monument have asked Congress to provide money to build a visitor center, expand the monument and give greater protection to marine life. They also want the government to put the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in charge of the monument as part of NOAA's marine sanctuary system, taking it away from Interior.
One of the reason's we are even on the radar is because of all the letters, emails, resolutions, and testimonies being sent to the Subcommittee. Please keep them up! The Subcommittee is accepting testimony for 10 days after the hearing, so please take that opportunity to have your voice heard in the halls of the United States Congress.

Please take the time to write a letter in support of H.R. 3511. Address your letter to Representative Bordallo of Guam and send a copy to Representative Gregorio Camacho "Kilili" Sablan. This blog has sample letters and instructions on writing your letter. Letters from Saipan, Rota, New Mexico, and Florida have been entered into the official record. Please take a moment to add yours.