Thursday, February 11, 2010

Up close and possible at Western Shoals

Up close and possible at Western Shoals

Monday, 08 February 2010 04:17
by Zita Y. Taitano | Variety News Staff

Guam’s clear and sunny weather yesterday was an opportune time for members of the public advocacy group We are Guahan and others to snorkel an area of Apra Harbor planned for dredging to accommodate a deep draft berth for aircrafts carriers.

Western Shoals is located directly across from the Guam Shipyard between Big Blue Reef, Jade Shoals, and Sasa Bay and is a favored dive spot. The preferred site detailed in the military’s draft environmental impact report is located along the shoreline of Polaris Point.

The group traveled to the marine site and was joined by more than 20 other concerned island residents who paddled in canoes from Family Beach at the Port of Guam area.

The We Are Guahan troop dropped anchor from a small fishing boat boasting a canvas emblazoned with the phrases “We are Guahan” and “We are Ocean.”

The Guam Police Department marine patrol kept a close watch on the activity.

According to Kara Flores Mays, co-coordinator of the tour to visit the threatened underwater habitat, after reading the location was a prime alternative for the military to dredge Apra Harbor the group decided to come see for their selves what was at risk.

“This is an area that is important to a lot of people,” said Flores Mays. “It’s important to divers, it’s important to people who snorkel and as you can see, it’s important to people in all these canoes.

Before a brief overview of the dive site presented by Dave Burnic, a biologist at Guam Coastal Management, Mays added, “It’s important for fishermen and there are a lot of people in our community who really love this area and can’t understand why it is being destroyed.”

The underwater location’s unique biodiversity was explained to the group so they would better understand the impact of dredging the area.

Burnic said at least a 100 species of coral thrive within the harbor, noting in the Caribbean, there are only 55 species identified there thus far.

“There’s are twice as many coral in this harbor as there are across thousands of miles of ocean and in other parts of the world so that’s really special,” the biologist explained.

He commended the organizers for bringing residents to the shoals so they could see firsthand the beauty of the reef and the marine life that depends on the area.

University of Guam Social Work majors Kleine Mallare, 25, of Dededo and Rose Hermoso, of Windward Hills, both felt the tour was very educational.

“I learned a lot especially since it’s my first time out here,” said Mallare. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

“No one can read an 11,000 page document to begin and for (We Are Guahan) to say ‘we can get involved and we’ll subdivide this and there are subcommittees,’ well you learn a little bit of that because it’s going to happen. We need to know and we need to put our input in there,” she said.

Hermoso added they were aware of the reasons for the tour and gave thumbs up to We Are Guahan for organizing the event because it gives them a better understanding of what is in the military’s draft environmental impact statement.

A paddler arose and chanted to ancient ancestors asking for blessings of guardianship over the sea to prevent the dredging.

A similar ceremony was held on board the boat and people were asked to pass two leis among the gathered crowd before Ka’isa Won Pat Borja, son of Gena and Melvin Won Pat Borja and Ma’ase, son of Monaeka De’Oro dropped them overboard in a somber ceremony.

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