Thursday, November 6, 2008

Will It Hurt Our Economy?

The LA Times carried a report that First Lady Laura Bush supports the creation of a marine national monument here, but Vice President Dick Cheney opposes it because it "will hurt our economy."

There are some important considerations when assessing the economic impact of creating a marine national monument here.

1. Right now, we have little to no economic activity in the proposed protected area going on. The waters around Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion are not being fished. An earlier report from WESPAC suggested that the area is not a feasible or viable fishery. There is no mining going on in the proposed monument area. So stopping economic activity there now causes no change to what we have at present, and certainly no harm to our economy.

2. The future is speculative. For gamblers, the possibility that there may be some potential mining is "economic harm." For conservationists, the possibility of future damage to our marine life and eco-system is not only biological and geological harm, but economic harm. No one can prove the future, but we can look to the past to see what is likely.

* We know that the rest of the world's oceans have been harmed, that marine diversity is dwindling at an alarming rate, that pollution does not stay in one area. There is reason to want to take measures now to conserve what we have.

* We know that any minerals that may be desirable for mining would be at the southern part of the protected area, and not in the same place as some of the deep water, most unusual and unique life; we know that we can have different zones for the protected areas, so that mining could be allowable in some part of the protected area.

* We know that "no take" zones help marine life recover. While the protected area right now does not have the kind of marine life desireable or economically advantageous to fishermen, as the rest of the world's oceans are fished out, the last and least likely places will be tapped for whatever can be taken from them. If we don't protect some area, we'll have nothing left.

3. There are potential economic benefits that far outweigh any possible harm. We will get free world-wide press coverage, which will help our sagging tourism economy. We will get more scientists coming to study, and they will spend money here while present in the CNMI, and will help at our schools and college. We will get a Visitor Center, which will provide for some jobs, as well as giving tourists more to do while here and possibly extending their visits another day. We will get a boat that can be used for transportation to the northern islands, on the way to the marine protected area.

There are likely many more advantages that I have not mentioned. While economists can always argue with each other over specific assumptions made in their studies, it is clear that their are economic gains to be made from the designation, and few if any economic losses to be sustained.

If we do nothing, what economic benefit will we gain?
None. Nothing now. Only a gamble that sometime in the future there may be something that we can exploit and further ruin, changing our natural world to dollars.

If we have a marine national monument designated, we will get
* free worldwide press
* an improved chance for more visitors
* a Visitors Center, which adds a few jobs and entices longer visits by tourists
* greater educational opporutnities for students here
* and a portion of our world saved and conserved for our future generations.