Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eating with Awesomeness

Yeah, so Kung Fu Panda 2 comes out this summer and awesome is going to be used in abundance until it works its way through my system.  That could last months or even years.

That's Carl Safina in the blue shirt.  A few year's ago my dad's old clerk handed me a copy of Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur, her eyes misting as she told me that she and my father had traded books while he was still alive.  She choked up as she told me it meant the world to be doing the same with me, and couldn't finish what she had wanted to say.

And that's my connection to Carl Safina.  I always get weirded out when people tell me they read this blog, so I didn't share this (I've also read Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival.)

I did talk about Saipan and told him about my sinahi.  We also talked about Saipan.  And sharks.  He was skeptical of the 73 million number.


Just another night in Washington, DC.

Same Great Story, New Low Price

I know what you're thinking. Man, that's a great tan! And an even better shirt!

So that's me at Garapan Elementary School with school principal and fellow blogger Boni Pangelinan. Boni is accepting 35 copies of Our Northern Islands, donated to the school by Dennis Chan and me.

When I was a kid, the only images I saw from the Northern Islands came from stories my parents told and from a single picture in a single book on my mother's book shelf. When I was 16 I had the chance to go up there, but I was one of the lucky ones. I wanted more kids to know about the Northern Islands, because that would lead to more adults caring about the Northern Islands.

The Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument funded Dennis' trip to the Northern Islands with the intent that he would bring his experience back to Saipan to share with other people his age. Our Northern Islands is the result. It is taken straight from Dennis' journal and includes about 80 of my photographs.

All the proceeds from the book so far have been used to purchase books, all of which have been donated to public schools on Saipan. Now hundreds of kids know about the Northern Islands through Dennis' words and my photographs.

Sales of the book have slowed, so I decided to drop the price from $29.95 to $21.95. Also, I won't have the budget to buy more books for donations until we sell more books, but I will make books available at cost for anyone who wants to donate them to a school.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guess who I saw last weekend?

I saw Downtown Chloe Brown! Once upon a time Chloe and I used to work at a business selling the best fish and martinis in Orlando.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Biiiiiiiilllllllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooooooooon Dollars!

There is an urban legend on Saipan about a man who wouldn't sell his land for $500,000 because he was holding out for half a million. Now we have the lt. governor and the Tinian mayor getting their picture taken with investors promising to drop 3 biiiiiiiilllllllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooooooooon dollars on Tinian.

I call shenanigans.

I did a little research and found that it cost US$1.81 billion to build Hong Kong Disneyland. So let me get this straight, a company is going to build something one and a half times more expensive than Disneyland on an island serviced by this airplane:

freedom airOn the busiest of days, Tinian can handle 50 passengers at the airport. I understand the want to improve the economy, but at very best the CNMI is being hoodwinked. I don't want to think about what the worst case scenario could be.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Protect the Oceanic Whitetip Shark on World Ocean's Day

oceanic whitetip shark
The IUCN Red List Threatened Species assesses the Oceanic Whitetip Shark as Critically Endangered in the Western and Central Atlantic. Globally they are assessed as Vulnerable and are threatened with extinction if strong measures are not put into place to protect their remaining populations.

To raise awareness of the plight of this charismatic species, please change your Facebook profile picture to the attached graphic until World Ocean's Day on June 8, 2011.  A high resolution of the photo can also be found on Flickr.

Surround Net Fishing: Worse than Shark Finning

This was written in 1812 by a Frenchman on Guam. It concerns a flotilla of Carolinian sailors visiting Rota on their way to Saipan:
"We witnessed an instance of the Caroline islanders extremely irregular dietary habits. The alcade, whom we had just left, had presented them with a roast pig, a basketful of corn cobs, 150 breadfruit cooked in an oven, perhaps fifty yams, and an abundance of coconuts. They did not stop eating all day long, sometimes even rubbing and kneading their belly with their hands, as though wanting to stuff more food in. By sunset, nothing more than a few breadfruit and coconuts remained - and yet we ourselves had given them, in addition to the alcade's gifts, two chickens, two loaves of bread, two large pastries, a dozen yam roots, and some oranges. The following day, not one of them ate more than a coconut. That, they told us, is their normal ration per day on the crossings from Guam to Satawal and back. It was hard for us to grasp they could be so abstemious, having just seen them devour, or rather inhale, such a prodigious pile of food. In general, the Caroline Islanders seem to concern themselves very little with the future. Convinced that it will always and soon enough be time to cut their intake down to the miserable ration of on coconut per diem, they abuse whatever fortuitous abundances comes their way."
While written from a colonialist point of view by someone of European descent 199 years ago, does this not perfectly describe the decision making process in the Northern Mariana Islands? Let's do what what feels good right now, and we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

It is this way of thinking that is moving the NMI towards lifting the decade-old surround net ban. The bill passed the House 15-4 and now heads to the Senate.  If signed by the governor, the bill would reauthorize the use of gillnets and surround nets, something I have touched on in my ramblings.

This seems counterintuitive, but the best way to catch more fish is to catch less fish.  To put it another way, the management of fish will allow fishermen to catch more and catch bigger fish.  The latest and best science tells us that properly managed marine protected areas lead to more fish biomass, bigger fish, more individual fish, and more fish diversity.  On top of that, tourists pay big money and travel thousands of miles to go swimming with fish.

Saipan has three small marine protected areas, but they are no way near properly managed and they are nowhere near large enough to provide sanctuary for Saipan's overfished and depleted waters.

I freely admit that the benefits of a system of properly managed marine protected areas would not begin to reap benefits until tomorrow, therefore, it will not even be considered.

So what of shark finning?

I put shark finning in the title of this blog post because Richard Seman, one of the strongest opponents to the shark fin ban, was the only person to testify against lifting the net ban. I've had my run-ins with Richard over the years.  To have this guy against the net ban should hint at how horrible these nets are.

Kudos to Richard Seman.

And speaking of sharks, I thought I'd share the account of a shark interaction from the Frenchman's journal. In this mention he is shooting birds with his rifle from the proa and the Carolinian sailors are jumping in the water to retrieve them:
"These islanders are such splendid swimmers that it is almost a matter of indifference to them whether their head is under the water or out of it; the sea, it appeared, was their natural element, despite the frequent dangers with which it threatened them. Once, as they were on point of diving to retrieve a bird, a shark appeared. They merely watched it until it had moved far enough away and no longer presented an immediate menace, then one of them plunged into the sea and returned in the usual manner."
Respect, not fear. If you want a copy, An Account of the Corvette L' Uraine's Sojourn at the Mariana Islands, 1819, is available on Saipan.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Donut Hole Update

maug marine debris
Monument Trash: Piles of marine debris on Maug
A hearing was held on Thursday in the halls of power to convey territorial submerged lands to the Northern Mariana Islands.

Testimony was heard, mostly in support of the conveyance, although a few would like to see amendments, including the Executive Branch.  The Department of Interior made the recommendation that the proposed territorial submerged lands surrounding the islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion (the Islands Unit) be conveyed back to the CNMI, "unless or until such time as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island enters into an agreement with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce for the permanent protection and co-management of such portion of the Islands Unit."

For four years, the position of the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument has been, "the submerged lands surrounding the three islands should be granted to the Northern Mariana Islands, but remain a part of the monument to be co-mananged by the federal and commonwealth governments."

The Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument are concerned that Kilili's bill as written would create a loophole that would open the most biologically and geologically diverse portion of the monument to destructive activities. I've written about this issue at length here and here.

At issue is whether or not the federal submerged lands will remain a part of the monument when they become territorial submerged lands. The constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands sets the islands aside as "uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species."

The newly conveyed territorial waters would have no protections, and constitutional protections aside, the leaders of the CNMI have shown time and again they are not to be trusted. Need I find the links to the stories of poaching on Asuncion by members of the Legislature?

The monument proclamation deems that the submerged lands "may" remain a part of the monument. The opposite is true as well, they "may not" remain, either. The proclamation does not outline who makes the determine of "may" or "may not," and it has been my hope that Kilili would make this a part of the submerged lands legislation.

Without such a determination, ostensibly the monument would have three gaping donut holes punched out of its most geologically and biologically diverse heart. I will concede that the current legislation does nothing to affect the monument proclamation, but it certainly opens a loophole for opening the monument to destructive practices. Think of it as the power poles leading to Marpi.

So Interior's recommendation is pretty darn close to what we want, and about as close as we're likely to get.

I encourage you to support Interior's position. If you would like to sign your name to a letter doing so, please send me an email at angelo at taotaotasi dot com. Feel free to share this blog post with others who you think may want to sign. The deadline for adding your name is May 17.

Talking Sharks on the Radio

I got to be on the radio last New Zealand!

The shark in the photo is a sicklefin lemon shark. We became friends during a dive in March.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Saipan Blogger Auditions for Wolverive 2

Oh, man. My buddy Bryan Jones sent me this photo today. That's Uracas in the background, but I have no idea what I'm doing in the foreground. Better to have images like this out in the public sooner rather than later.

Thanks a lot, Bryan.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Dive In and Explore!

The Smithsonian Ocean Portal released a video highlighting the Google Earth work I did for them last year. The video embedded above is also available on their website. The video was made by the National Museum of Natural History's video team and showcases the 250+ Google Earth stories I wrote.

I didn't blog much about the work I did while I was doing it, but my experience at the Smithsonian was a very good one. I got to work with scientists and other museum staff to find photos and video and tell ocean stories. Plus, I got to work on coding, which always makes me feel like I'm in the Matrix.

Well, not really. Coding just makes me go cross-eyed and makes me tired.

Speaking of tired and cross-eyed, I've been working on a Google Earth project for my current job. I'm not at liberty to get into details, but if you see a Google Earth link on my Facebook wall in a few weeks, you'll know what I was working on.

What's Your Idea?

I am developing some ideas for a public "exhibit" for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.  J. Duenas had this idea:
How about a small scale of the trench made of concrete or marble. Big enough for kids and tourists to take pictures standing the in the deepest part of the trench.
What's your idea?

Shark Tsunami in Guam

From left to right, that's Jen, Ev, Melanie, and me at Simon Sanchez High School in Guam.  We were starting a Shark Tsunami.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Day Mayday

Despite the lack of regular updates, 2011 on 2011 is progressing forward. I spent almost all of March in Fiji and fell off the healthy living wagon, but jumped right back on when I returned to Virginia in April.

I ran 19 out of 30 days last month, including a 13 day streak towards the end, for a total of 113.4 miles. That's probably the most running I've done in one month since I was 19. Go me.

Keep in mind that I basically had to start over in April. On my first day back from Fiji I struggled to get through 4 miles. The same thing happened the second day. I don't know if it was more from the countless hours sitting cross-legged and drinking grog or if it was not having run for most of March, but my knees screamed at me as I pounded the pavement. For a day or five I wondered if I'd done permanent damage (200 lbs. of pressure on each knee for miles at a time can't be good). I was in such bad shape that it hurt to walk up and down stairs for about a week.

The pain eventually faded as I settled back into my daily runs. My goal for April was to run 150 miles, and I obviously fell short. I'm cool with that, though. I'm four months into this, yet I feel like I'm just getting started. The closer I get to December, the better shape I'll be in. I can make up for all the missed days towards the end of the year. At least so I hope.

As for my weight, I haven't lost any in about a month. I remember in high school we used to say that muscle weighs more than fat. I hope that's what's going on.

I will say that my butt is smaller than it was four months ago. When I reach back and give myself a good scratch, it feels like I'm scratching someone else's butt. It's a little disconcerting.

I'm sure you really wanted to know that.

So I ran 5.5 miles today, bringing my total miles logged for 2011 to 317.9. With 244 days left in the year, I have 1693.1 miles to go before I reach my goal of running 2011 miles in 2011.