Tuesday, April 15, 2008

211. Response to Gourley letter 2

This is a short, off-the-cuff response:

Despite what Mr. Gourley says, the submerged lands issue is resolved. Roughly speaking, the submerged lands around our islands belong to the U.S. as an "exclusive economic zone" under U.S. law because no other alternative was reserved or defined in the Covenant. This is based on U.S. law.

(EDIT: I previously said: the same U.S. law applies here as it applies to all of the states. Well, yes and no. Some states-California notably, have 9 mile zones of state ownership based on prior ownership at time of statehood. Most coastal states have 2 mile zones of state ownership. Guam has a 2 mile zone of responsibility/liability under a territorial act, but not ownership. Guam's situation might actually be worse than ours since they have all the responsibility, but can't claim the benefits. We have 0 mile zone, no liability, no ownership beyond the high water mark, having failed to negotiate this in the Covenant and not having any other federal grant/law apply.)

Mr. Gourley's argument: the CNMI is trying to get the U.S. to give it some of the submerged lands that are part of the U.S. eez. If we have a National Marine Monument, there'll be less for the CNMI to beg from the U.S.

My response. This is not an argument against protecting the natural habitat. It is the politics of control. If it's a good idea to have a protected zone, then it's a good idea whether the U.S. does it or the CNMI does it. And frankly, it's better for the CNMI to have the U.S. pay for it.

From my perspective, this argument (and all of Mr. Gourley's arguments) are based on a desire to keep the ocean open to commercial interests. Mr. Gourley would like the least amount of regulation between him and his clients and the natural world. This would make it easier to TAKE and TAKE and keep TAKING ocean resources.

My guess is that businesses who have little or no respect for the environment would find it easier to abuse the environment under CNMI control than under U.S. control (I say this, given the CNMI's poor performance at regulating any government activity). So Mr. Gourley's wanting the CNMI to have control isn't in the interests of the CNMI, but rather in the interests of the businesses who will then abuse our natural resources.

The CNMI doesn't have the money, the manpower, or the know-how at its ready disposition to take necessary action to protect our marine resources, especially at the remote outpost of our three northernmost islands.

Mr. Gourley's argument: The natural world is a bank and we can tap its resources until it goes bankrupt. It's somehow wrong to deprive us from doing that.

Mr response: We have to protect our environment. We are not depositors into the bank, and we can't keep taking out resources. It (our natural world) will go bankrupt.

We need zones that are completely free from humanity's rapacious appetite. Perhaps another analogy for the National Marine Monument (rather than a bank that won't let anyone withdraw resources) is the DMZ. If we want an end to war, we have to start with peace somewhere. Mr. Gourley would have us fighting with no DMZ, no peace, no place of respite. Our marine life needs a free zone, a respite where it can escape the war against it.

Mr. Gourley argues for on-going "protection" of our marine resources by Wespac and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). This essentially means no protection.

NMFS has failed to do its job of protecting marine life in Hawaii waters, See Report on NMFS ; in the Atlantic; See Audobon Society sues; in the Gulf of Mexico, See Red Snapper depeletion, and in the Pacific Northwest NMFS fails alongside Oregon agency .

I previously noted an on-going investigation into allegations against Wespac, another federal agency that has demonstrated its willingness to hear only the commercial fishing industry's voice in the discussion on marine species regulation.

There is no good reason for the public to have confidence in either of these agencies when it comes to protecting our precious marine environment. The public record clearly shows that they are more interested in helping commercial fishing interests than in enforcing laws that ensure the vitality of our limited and dwindling marine life.

The National Marine Monument, with the shift to NOAA, promises a much better chance of real environment conservation.

And that's a good thing.

No comments: