Saturday, May 10, 2008

231. On the current state of our oceans

Our oceans are dying. We've had strong scientific evidence reported in the media here and here, and here, as well as elsewhere, about this worrisome phenomenon.

We need to stop that decline. It's not too late.

giant grouper at Uracas

A national marine monument protecting the ecosystem around Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion would be a step toward recovery of our oceans. Insisting on keeping the ocean open to expanding fisheries will only help ensure the loss of our ocean life.

Who is behind the opposition to the national marine monument?

The most prolific and vociferous opposition has come from John Gourley. He currently lists his business interest as Micronesian Environmental Services. His former business was called Micronesian Clam Company. Both appear to be related to commercial fishing.

Also significantly, he's listed as a member of the council advisory panel to WESPAC, one of the divisions under the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a branch of the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Does Mr. Gourley speak for WESPAC? Not officially, but WESPAC stands to lose control of the designated ocean area if a national marine monument is created. And their control allows them to protect commercial fishing interests at the expense of our oceans. WESPAC officials are under investigation for lobbying, have been accused of having conflicts of interest, and have been sued for gross failure to protect marine environments. (See earlier posts.)

So it seems WESPAC is at least allowing Mr. Gourley to mouth all of the confusion and vitriol he can muster to put the kibosh on CONSERVATION, the only goal of the national marine monument.

Asuncion, CNMI

Who else is among the opposition?
John Gourley mentioned a "new" fishing venture in the CNMI called Crystal Seas that wants to have access to fishing around Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion.

I think this is the same business that has previously been called "Northern Marianas Fisheries, Inc.", and "Lady Kimberly, Inc.", as reported in a March 2007 article in the Marianas Variety.

Their website includes contact names, including Courtney Zietzke, who was at one time affiliated with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as shown on a letter from Idaho Power with an xc to him. (Remember WESPAC is under NMFS.)

There's a little more information about Crystal Seas out there: it is mentioned in the recently promulgated draft amendments that would regulate long-line fishing around the Marianas--well, allow it that is.

And although Crystal Seas is reported to be a relatively new company, starting their fishing in just 2007, they've already been sued in federal court by Seattle Refrigeration Company for breach of contract.

So back to the topic at hand--our oceans are dying. The devastation is extremely worrisome and dangerous for our well-being. Conservation-putting entire ocean eco-systems beyond the damage of commercial fishing-would help.

Why should we listen to those who oppose this environmental aid?

We do need to be afraid-but not of "losing" 1/3 of the U.S. EEZ to conservation. We should be afraid of not protecting it, afraid of the harm done by those who want to shut down the discussion of a possible marine sanctuary that would help our oceans recover. We should be afraid of not doing what needs to be done--establishing protection for the unique eco-system the Marianas Trench provides around Uracas, Maug and Asuncion.
Photos from NOA A and USGS (Frank Trusdell).

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