Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First book about NMI marine monument is now available

Last summer, Dennis Chan, anchored to the shores of Saipan his entire life and freshly graduated from Marianas High School, entered an essay contest: Why I want to visit the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. He won. Two weeks later he was on board the 105-foot Lady Carolina, skimming the surface of the Philippine Sea headed for Maug.

The story of Dennis' expedition, the first of its kind since the declaration of the Mariana Trench Monument on Jan. 6, 2009, is told in a new book, Our Northern Islands.

According to Saipan Tribune columnist Jaime Vergara, “Youthful enthusiasm and neophyte adventure jumps out of the pages of this book.”

Our Northern Islands also contains over 70 full color photos by Angelo O'Connor Villagomez. Villagomez was the Saipan coordinator of the campaign that led to monument's creation and is a director of the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument, the organization that spearheaded the expedition.

“Since most people will never get to visit the Northern Islands, it is my hope and Dennis' hope that this book will bring the Northern Islands to the people living on Saipan, Tinian, Rota and around the world,” said Villagomez.

There are 10 mostly-uninhabited islands north of the capitol island of Saipan in the Marianas archipelago. They are collectively known as the Northern Islands. Five of the islands are wildlife refuges and the waters surrounding the northernmost three comprise the islands unit of the Mariana Trench Monument.

During the expedition Dennis visited Maug, Agrigan, Pagan, and Sarigan and circumnavigated Uracas, the northernmost point in Micronesia.

Our Northern Islands is available on Amazon.com and Createspace.com at https://www.createspace.com/3471268. Both companies ship books anywhere in the world, including Saipan. The book will be available at a location on Saipan soon.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Our Northern Islands will support the educational programs of the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and create more opportunities like the one Dennis had.

Dennis Chan and his Northern Islands

From Saipan Tribune editorialist Jaime Vergara:

Our Northern Islands is actually the title of a book produced collaboratively by Dennis Chan on text and Angelo Villagomez on editing, layout, graphics and publishing. The deft touch of the editor is obvious, but the youth and spirit of Dennis comes through. Subtitled The first expedition to the Mariana Trench National Monument, it chronicles a trip taken by Friends of the Monument after the declaration by GWBush of the surrounding area of Asuncion, Maug and Urucas-the northernmost islands of the Marianas chain-as a marine protected area.

One of the friends funded the trip with the caveat that a young person be chosen through an essay contest to experience the islands and return to tell of the experience to peers. Dennis Chan, 18-year-old Saipan born and bred, won the essay and this book is a coffee table conversation piece that chronicles the journey in words and pictures.

Dennis' staccato narrative from notes in a log/journal notebook handed him at the start of the trip, with the cadence and idiom of the classroom hallways, is given recognizable mainstream form by our erstwhile mayor of Saipan's watering holes, and Saipan's almost Matua with the Matachang service style of 2009 election, now within the beltway habitué of the nation's capital, Angelo Villagomez. The racy tone in the recollection like that of the two-day-old chaffy underwear is ordinary enough, but might in the telling have gotten an “R” rating from Hollywood's MPAA!

Not a few of the younger Chan siblings were in my class at SVES and their dad Norman is known for setting up refined gastronomic fan dian (restaurants, literally, rice shops). Dennis at the International School was once characterized as a “slick talker like a used-car salesman” (with no offense meant to the guys down the car lot, only to admire their marketing skills), and we did get the chance to see him perform in one of the island's debating events. He is an MHS grad.

What comes through loud and clear in the book is that Dennis is no country bumpkin. The urban comfort of globalized Saipan was not missed in his obvious upbringing and Dennis might know the principle of friction, but may not know how to kindle wood were he stuck on an island without any amenities, and his life depended on it.

A queasy stomach got him green by the gills as soon as the waves hit starboard on the navigatinal float Lady Carolina, and on the return from Maug and Uracus through Agrihan and Pagan, side-stepping the patty cakes on the ground and the buzz in the air from the bees and flies, our cosmopolitan dude bedrudgingly started fending for himself.

In one of the book's photos, Dennis holds a huge coconut crab with the mixed expression of “I would love to have this under my belly cooked and relished slowly, but do I have to hold this live one for a frigging picture?” His pose on Lady Carolina in Uracus from the southeast is priceless and would make an excellent resumé promo and an application supplement to an institution of higher education anywhere in the world!

Dennis is currently registered at the Northern Marianas College, our local and only community college. A colleague took exception to his remaining on island when his obvious talents could be challenged more thoroughly elsewhere. In a sense, the two-year associate liberal arts degree from NMC might not be a bad place for Dennis to exercise self-reliance and self-motivity in nurturing his own self-confidence for a larger field elsewhere.

Besides, the social networking that prestigious universities offer their studentry may be useful at spring break in one of the instant “student” towns, but only rarely, unless it is accompanied by aristocratic pedigree, does it lead to an apartment on Park Avenue, or a tenure at Cambridge.

On the other hand, Dennis should not be denied the resources to move elsewhere two years hence, should he so desires. SHEFA and the local Chamber of Commerce scholarship might not be a bad place to start. I would not recommend the poker house as an option!

The awe and wonder in Maug and the circumnavigation of the northernmost island Uracus (Farallon de Pajaros) is the heart of the trip: “There are so many places to see in the world, and I'm sure I'll always say I'll come back, but life, life's got so much to do and other places to go. I may never be in Pagan again or Maug or any of our Northern Islands. The thought is a sad one, but it makes the moment even more special” and the stopovers in Agrigan and Pagan, its humanness. “Pagan, the heights, the vistas, the beach, and all that beauty. I think beauty should be bought in the effort to see it, and so I did. I arrived at beauty; I roamed through it with blistered feet and sore groin.”

Youthful enthusiasm and neophyte adventure jumps out of pages of this book. Now, Angelo needs to get a sequel out from his adult and professional perspective (and encourage colleagues-two professional writers, a photographer, navigators and environmentalists-to produce their memories and recollections as well).

Our Northern Islands
The first expedition to the Northern Mariana Trench National Monument
Dennis Chan

Monday, September 13, 2010

WANTED: Writers from the Northern Mariana Islands

Saipan, CNMI – A quartet of local writers from the Northern Mariana Islands is accepting submissions for an upcoming anthology of local writers they are tentatively calling Stories from Wild Bills Cafe: Life, Love and Spicy Tofu in the Northern Mariana Islands.

“A number of local writers have been throwing around an idea to create a compilation of local work for years now,” said Angelo O’Connor Villagomez. “A group of us have been meeting together over spicy tofu and chiliburgers at Wild Bills these last few months and we’ve finally decided to put it together.”

When asked how long the anthology would be and how many writers would be included, Villagomez said that the book would be “about 200 pages, which will probably fit about 15 -20 writers.”

The editors of Wild Bills Café are Jane Mack, Joe Race, Jaime Vergara, and Villagomez.

The inspiration for the name of the anthology comes from Wild Bills Café on Beach Road in Garapan.

“I talked to the owner Bill about the name, and he’s allowing us to use it,” explained Race, a local novelist and former police officer. “Our idea is to focus the attention on a physical place to ground all the stories.”

Race also said that the book would promote the Northern Mariana Islands and might even turn Wild Bills into a destination for tourists, readers, and writers.

“Saipan, Tinian and Rota are home to several dozen newspaper reporters, bloggers, novelists, poets and amateur writers,” said Mack, a novelist and lawyer. “There are also a number of writers from the Northern Mariana Islands living and working abroad, but who write about home. These are the people we want to include in this first edition of Wild Bills.”

Writers interested in submitting work for the anthology can contact the editors at WildBillStories@gmail.com. Submission guidelines are available upon request. Writers whose work is chosen for submission will receive two (2) copies of Stories from Wild Bills Café.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friends of the Monument praised for support of coral reef bill

Kilili acknowledges the Friends of the Monument in this week's E-Newsletter - Friday, September 10, 2010:

"The Friends of the Monument has joined 34 other environmental organizations asking for U.S. Senate action on legislation reauthorizing the federal government’s coral reef program. H.R. 860, the Coral Reef Conservation Act Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2009, of which I am an original cosponsor, was introduced in February 2009 and passed the House of Representatives in September. It’s been stuck in the Senate ever since. The reauthorization provides an increase in annual funding—up to $35 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, which is much needed to help preserve and protect our coral reefs. It is my hope that pressure from conservation groups, such as Friends of the Monument, will encourage the Senate to act."
Also in this weeks E-Newsletter - the Friends of the Marianas Trench MNM thank Kilili for his support of  PacIOOS. Of this Kilili writes:
"When the Pacific Marine Resources Institute asked me to write a letter of support for the Pacific Integrated Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) program, the answer was a resounding “yes.” The Institute’s request is completely in synch with my support for the national program. In March of this year, I and several of my colleagues made a formal request to the House Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice and Science for $53 million in funding for the national program, the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). The PacIOOS is one of eleven regional observing programs around the country and includes the NMI. Just this past July, the PacIOOS program partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Program to install the world's first joint Integrated Coral Observing Network/IOOS station in LaoLao Bay to monitor water quality, sea temperature and salinity. The data that is collected will help our scientists improve the safety and efficiency of marine operations, improve predictions of coastal hazards, and better measure climate change impacts on our islands."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Carnival of the Blue XL: The Saipan Blog

carnival of the blue 40Carnival of the Blue XL: Top of the Food Chain is now posted at the Saipan Blog. Carnival of the Blue is a rotating monthly compilation of the "best of" ocean blogging, bringing together ocean bloggers and readers and (hopefully) using new media to build a virtual community of ocean lovers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Explore the Ocean on NPR

From NPR:
Marine environments around the Pacific Islands are receiving increasing global attention, thanks to the 'Explore the Ocean Layer' in Google Earth. HPR’s Kayla Rosenfeld sat down for a tutorial with former Hawaii resident and Ocean Layer curator, Charlotte Vick.
Micronesia Challenge is discussed at 1:30. If the link does not work, you can download the mp3 by clicking HERE.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friends of the Monument join call for Coral Reef Conservation

obyan beach underwaterThe Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument are back in the news, this time calling for the US Senate to pass strong conservation-minded coral reef legislation:
September 3, 2010, Saipan, CNMI / Our coral reefs are in trouble. Almost 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost and an additional 35% are threatened according to the expert opinion of 372 coral reef scientists and managers from 96 countries who contributed to the latest Status of the Coral Reefs of the World, published in 2008.

In response, a coalition of non-governmental organizations and environmental stakeholders issued a letter today calling for the US Senate to pass strong conservation-minded coral reef legislation. The US House version of the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act passed in September of last year. Further movement of the legislation now depends on the US Senate.

Thirty-five organizations signed the Senate corals letter. Groups represented include leading organizations such as the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), International Society for Reef Studies, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Surfrider Foundation, Greenpeace USA, Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, Coastal States Organization, and Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument.

The Coral Reef Conservation Act authorizes grants for coral reef conservation activities. Funds are awarded under six program categories: State and Territory Coral Reef Management; State and Territory Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring; Coral Reef Ecosystem Research; Projects to Improve or Amend Coral Reef Fishery Management Plans; General Coral Reef Conservation; and International Coral Reef Conservation.

The coalition expressed alarm about the declining health of coral reef ecosystems and the threats coral reefs face. Major threats noted include coastal runoff, overfishing and overharvesting, vessel impacts, invasive species, and coral bleaching, disease, and ocean acidification caused by unregulated greenhouse gas pollution.

Measures before Congress, supported by the coalition, include provisions to increase the status of protection for corals in all U.S. waters, increase funding for coral reef conservation efforts, provide support to better understand and manage the trade in coral reef wildlife, and support communitybased approaches to coral reef stewardship, among others.

“Coral reef ecosystems face growing threats from overfishing, habitat destruction, poor water quality and disease”, said Dr. Andrew Baker, a coral reef biologist at the University of Miami and a 2008 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. “When you add the devastating impacts of our carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to warmer and more acidic oceans, coral reefs worldwide are left reeling from the impacts. The decline of coral reef ecosystems worldwide underscores the need for Congress to pass coral reef legislation, while also renewing its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas pollution.”

“These valuable and fascinating ecosystems are disappearing within our lifetimes, and their loss will have significant economic, social, and environmental consequences in the United States and worldwide,” said Steven Lutz, Executive Director of Blue Climate Solutions, the group that organized the coalition effort. “The Senate has a fantastic opportunity to protect and conserve coral reefs by passing this important legislation.”
The text of the letter signed by Friends' Chairman Ike Cabrera is as follows:

The Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchinson
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The Honorable Maria Cantwell
Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

The Honorable Olympia J. Snowe
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Oceans
Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

September 3, 2010

Dear Chairpersons and Ranking Members:

As organizations and stakeholders involved with coral reef conservation, we are profoundly alarmed about the threats these unique and invaluable ecosystems face in the United States and around the world. We urge your support for a strong conservation-minded reauthorization of the United States Coral Reef Conservation Act.

Coral reefs provide many important services; they protect coastlines from the damaging effects of storms, and are vital to the economies of many coastal communities in the U.S. and around the world, through revenues generated in tourism and fisheries. The diversity of life they support establishes them as treasure troves of discovery for applications in medicine and industry.

However coral reefs are declining at an alarming rate. Almost 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost and an additional 35% are threatened according to the expert opinion of 372 coral reef scientists and managers from 96 countries who contributed to the Status of the Coral Reefs of the World: 2008 report. The major threats to coral reefs include coastal runoff, overfishing and overharvesting, vessel impacts, invasive species, and coral bleaching, disease, and ocean acidification caused by unregulated greenhouse gas pollution.

These valuable and fascinating ecosystems are disappearing within our lifetimes, and their loss will have significant social, economic, and environmental consequences in the United States and worldwide.

We commend the positive steps taken in the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act by the Senate. We respectfully ask you to adopt the strongest possible language for the conservation and protection of coral reef ecosystems in the reauthorization of this important legislation. Measures we support include provisions to:

• Increase the status of protection for corals in all U.S. waters;
• Support community-based approaches to coral reef stewardship;
• Enable management to effectively address the threat of vessel groundings and seek appropriate liability for such
incidents (with narrowly defined exceptions);
• Support cooperative relationships with universities and other academic bodies, and non-governmental
organizations in promotion of coral reef conservation;
• Enable all relevant federal agencies to effectively participate in coral reef conservation;
• Provide additional accountability for federal funds used for coral reef conservation efforts;
• Provide support to better understand and manage the trade in coral reef wildlife;
• Strengthen U.S. international coral reef conservation efforts; and
• Authorize increased funding to protect these extraordinary habitats.

Please join the effort to conserve our coral reefs by supporting the reauthorization of the Coral Reef
Conservation Act.

Sincerely yours, (signed by the following thirty-five organizations and stakeholders)

Blue Climate Solutions - Steven J. Lutz, Executive Director, Miami, FL

Center for Biological Diversity - Andrea A. Treece, Senior Attorney, Oceans Program, San Francisco, CA

Coastal States Organization - Kristen Fletcher, Executive Director, Washington, DC

Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) - Rick MacPherson, Director, Conservation Programs, San Francisco, CA

EarthEcho International - Philippe Cousteau, CEO and co-founder, Washington, DC

Environmental Defense Fund - Cara Cooper, Coral Specialist, Saint Petersburg, FL

Fauna & Flora International - Katie Frohardt, Executive Director, Washington, DC

Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument - Ignacio V. Cabrera, Chairman, Saipan, CNMI

Greenpeace USA - Phil Kline, Senior Ocean Campaigner, Washington, DC

International Society for Reef Studies (ICRS) - Richard Aronson

Natural Resources Defense Council - Lisa Suatoni, Senior Scientist, Oceans Program, New York, NY

NAUI Worldwide - Jed Livingstone, Vice President, Riverview, FL

Nova Southeastern University National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) - Richard E Dodge, Dean, Wendy Wood-Derrer, Assistant Director of Development, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Ocean Conservation Research - Michael Stocker, Director, Lagunitas

Ocean Defenders Alliance - Kurt Lieber, Founder and President, Scott Sheckman, Acting Executive Director, Huntington Beach, CA

Oceanic Defense - "Educate. Activate" - Samantha Whitcraft, Director, Conservation Biology, Miami, FL

Palm Beach County Reef Rescue - Ed Tichenor, Director, Boynton Beach, FL

Project AWARE Foundation - Jenny Miller Garmendia Director, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Reef Check Foundation - Gregor Hodgson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Reef Check Foundation, Pacific Palisades, CA

Sailors for the Sea - Dan Pingaro, CEO, Newport, RI

Save Our Seas - Capt. Paul Clark, President, Hanalei, HI

Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly the Caribbean Conservation Corporation) - David Godfrey, Executive Director, Gainesville, FL

SeaWeb - Dawn M. Martin, President, Silver Spring, MD

Sierra Club - Bruce Hamilton, Conservation Director, San Francisco, CA

South Carolina Coastal Conservation League - Dana Beach, Charleston, SC

Surfrider Foundation - Chad Nelsen, Environmental Director, San Clemente, CA

The Humane Society of the United States / Humane Society International - Teresa M. Telecky, Ph.D., Director of Wildlife, Washington, DC

The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature - Lewis Regenstein, President, Atlanta, GA

The Ocean Foundation - Mark J. Spalding, Ph.D., President, Washington, DC

The Ocean Project - Bill Mott, Director, Providence, RI

The Snorkel Bob Foundation - Robert Wintner, Executive Director, Kihei, HI

Urban Environment League - Fran Bohnsack, President, Miami, FL

Urban Paradise Guild - Sam Van Leer, Executive Director & Founder, North Miami, FL

WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) - Karen Eckert, Ph.D., Executive Director, Beaufort, NC

World Wildlife Fund - Roberta Elias, Senior Program Officer, Marine and Fisheries Policy, Washington, DC