Earlier this year, the concept of a marine monument around the three northernmost islands of the Marianas archipelago was proposed.
In response, the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance put forth a resolution supporting the concept of a marine conservation area and stated that a dialogue within the community was needed to discuss its merits.
Since that time, much information has been presented, discussed and published. Upon review and analysis of this information, it has become clear that the creation of a marine conservation area in the northern islands would be the best way to conserve and restore the array of habitats that sustains the natural biodiversity and heritage of these islands. Therefore, last week we passed a resolution stating that:
The Marianas Islands Nature Alliance supports the creation of a marine conservation area around the three northern islands of Asuncion, Maug and Uracus. We encourage the Commonwealth government and the national government to create, in partnership, an area that will protect and promote the conservation of precious and unique marine resources.
We support this endeavor knowing that now and future generations will benefit from scientific study; from increased economic opportunity through education and tourism; and, from the preservation of wildlife important to the cultural heritage of the Commonwealth’s people.
It is clear that the competing economic interests of commercial fisheries and mining do not outweigh the long-term economic benefits of conservation. Conservation has a proven track record of providing opportunities for scientific study, the ability to provide educational opportunities, and to develop compatible industries such as tourism.
Also, there will be government and non-government organization funding for research, maintenance, enforcement and administration. Commercial fishing is a short-term economic gain that only diminishes the quality of resources not only locally but on a regional scale and, if engaged in, supports a very narrow segment of the economy.
With mining, the location, technology, expertise and needed manpower make this uneconomical given other similar opportunities and projects worldwide.
We need to encourage the local and federal governments to come together to create a great ocean legacy in the Commonwealth. Formal designation of this area as a marine preserve and a commitment by the federal government to dedicate expertise and financial resources is an opportunity that does not come often.
We also need to take this opportunity to help make our earth better as it is on the verge of an environmental crisis. Although many may not have the opportunity to visit these most northern islands of the Commonwealth, their preservation and the knowledge that future generations will benefit is something that we all can afford now.
Lastly, the people of the Commonwealth have ties to the ocean, an inexplicable and spiritual connection. But this ocean connection has many parts and is inter-related; the land, the sea, the sky and the wildlife.
When put together, the whole gives a greater sense of being and Spiritualness than the mere sum of its parts. The creation of a large marine preserve in the northern most islands, a saving of the earth’s ocean surface and what is below and above its waters, is a gift to future generations.
There will be great comfort knowing that we will have a place that always has been and shall always forever be!
Let us come together to make this marine conservation area a reality.
Chuck Sayon is the interim executive director of the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (http://www.minapacific.org/)