Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peskadot Natibu

I have been working recently with a group of people who are pushing for indigenous fishing rights. It is a complicated issue which few people on Guam really understand but tend to reduce to racist and supremacist caricatures. Those who oppose fishing rights for Chamorros, say it is just stupid racism which will lead to the over harvesting of our natural resources. Those who support it tend to say that Chamorros, all Chamorro, simply because they are Chamorro know how to protect their resources and that they should be free to enjoy their waters to their heart's content. Both positions are not really helpful to the issue at hand, and so I've often been irritated at how this issue should not be as contentious as it should be. It cuts right to the middle of American colonialism and multiculturalism and how these things restrict life on Guam, inhibit our ability to even imagine what life can be like. We become trapped in the way America is supposed to be, its limits and everytime we even discuss transgressing those perceived boundaries, usually ignorant and unimaginative charges of racism follow.


This lack of productive discussion on this topic is one of the reasons I decided to get involved.

Another is the subject of this report, the press release of which is pasted below. Chamorro fishermen have been drowning at increasing rates in Guam in recent years, and many believe it is because of how the creation of Marine Preserve Areas on island (where you can't fish) has forced fisherman to travel to less safe areas to catch fish.

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*Press Release *

*For Immediate Release -- 6 January 2011*
Contact: Sylvia.spalding@noaa.gov
Or (808) 522-5341 or (808) 383-1069

*Indigenous Guam Fishermen Risk of Drowning More Than Doubled afte Enforcement of MPAs *

HONOLULU (6 January 2011) For fishermen on Guam who have traditionally fished inshore, a major concern is the loss of accessible fishing grounds caused in part by the establishment of five marine preserve areas (MPAs) in 1997. Fishermen have reported that the MPAs have displaced them from traditional fishing grounds, prevent them from teaching fishing techniques in a safe environment to the younger generation and impact the future of their local culture. Now a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), provides concrete evidence on how dangerous fishing has become for the indigenous Chamorro fishermen since fishing restrictions in the MPAs at Tumon Bay, Piti Bomb Holes, Sasa Bay, Achang Reef Flat and Pati Point have been enforced.

"The major finding of the study was that, for Chamorro fishermen, the risk of drowning more than doubled after MPAs were enforced in 2001," note authors Devin L. Lucas, and Jennifer M. Lincoln, PhD. On the other hand, non-Chamorro fishermen experienced a sharp decrease in the risk of drowning after MPAs were established.

The NIOSH report "The Impact of Marine Preserve Areas on the Safety of Fishermen on Guam" also found that the proportion of drowning deaths to Chamorro fishermen that occurred on the East Coast (in more hazardous waters) increased from 20 percent during 1986-2000 to 63 percent during 2001-2009.

The report concludes: "Before the MPAs were established, Guam residents fished primarily in the protected areas of the Western (leeward side) and Southern Coasts. Non-Chamorro fishermen were predominately recreational users, while Chamorro fishermen were more likely to subsist on the resource. As MPAs were established and enforced, the traditional and popular fishing grounds on the West Coast and Southern tip of the island were restricted. Non-Chamorro recreational fishermen most likely scaled back their fishing activities since few accessible, safe areas remained open. At the same time, Chamorro subsistence fishermen began fishing more heavily on the East Coast (windward side of the island)....That increased exposure to more hazardous conditions resulted in higher risk of drowning."

For a copy of the report, which was prepared by the NIOSH for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, please go to www.wpcouncil.org/news. For more on Guam's MPAs, go to http://www.guamdawr.org/aquatics/mpa.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council was created by Congress in 1976 and is authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to manage fisheries in federal waters surrounding Guam, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Pacific remote island areas.

1 comment:

ChamoruBoy said...

Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too? Throughout history, the white man has hoarded resources and even stolen it and killed for it, distributing it for only the white man and making laws that prevent non-whites from owning it. Fast forward to the present into the age of conservation and when the natives say, "hey wait a minute, you're disrupting and destroying our culture and we as natives should be allowed to fish in the protected areas" the white man calls the natives racist. Ha! Oh the irony. Now that the white man stands to be the one who is "disenfranchised" suddenly it's morally wrong to let some have rights that others do not, even though the intent of the natives is not to oppress or have an economic advantage over others. Well in today's jurisprudence, given the facts, the law will side with the white man's claim that you can't exclude them. Oh the irony!!! But why be suprised, it is the white man's legal system after all isn't it???

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