Thursday, 23 October 2008 00:00 By Mar-Vic Cagurangan - Variety News Staff
HAGATNA — The Guam Fisherman’s Co-Op rallies behind the CNMI government in opposing the White House’s proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, saying the plan will equally hurt this island’s fishing industry.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, members of the fishermen’s group voted unanimously to support the CNMI government’s petition against the Bush administration’s plan to turn the waters surrounding the commonwealth’s three northernmost islands as a federal marine reserve.
Fisherman’s Co-Op president Manny Duenas urged Guam officials to join the CNMI government in its efforts to block the federal plan.
“We don’t want any more federalization of the Marianas. What we have in place works. The federal plan will affect the tradition that we have been practicing for over 4,000 years,” Duenas said yesterday.
He said the proposed monument extends to the southern side of Guam waters, which are rich in seamount resources.
“The deeper part of the Marianas Trench is covered by Guam waters. The monument will exclude 50 percent of the marine resources in the southern seamount,” Duenas said.
The Fisherman’s Co-Op, which has about 150 members, is the lifeline for many island fishermen, who catch marine products for family sustenance and commercial trade.
Duenas said about 15 to 20 fishermen who cover the southern seamount produce about 50,000 tons of fish a year.
“The fishermen in that area use most of their catch for family consumption, and the excess are sold to local markets. We don’t plunder our marines resources. We use them for sustenance and to keep the community alive,’ Duenas said.
Sen. James Espaldon, R-Tamuning, plans to introduce a resolution expressing Guam’s support for the CNMI government’s stand against the White House plan.
“I represent the voice of our people who are against this proposed monument. What’s worse is that this is being done through an executive order instead of congressional legislation, without any input from us,” said Espaldon, chairman of the Legislative Natural Resources Committee. “They’re claiming our lands and the seas around us. How come island residents don’t have a say on this issue? Is this part of the militarization plan? They are militarizing our lands; do they want to militarize the seas as well?”