Saturday, December 22, 2012

Shark Savers to help Shark Stanley build global youth support for shark and manta ray species

Sharks Defenders has teamed up with two graduate students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Pew Environment Group, and Shark Savers to help Shark Stanley build global youth support for shark and manta ray species at next year's Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).


We don't need to tell you how much shark populations are in trouble, you already know. Scientists and government leaders have noticed and have proposed global protections for manta rays, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and porbeagle sharks at CITES. Shark Stanley is traveling the globe to find people to support positive outcomes for all these proposals.

Showing your support is easy. Simply visit Shark Stanley's homepage , then print up his image, carefully cut him out, and take photos of him with his supporters and friends in front of iconic landmarks near where you live (or while you are on holiday). Then upload your photos to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram tagging #SharkStanley, @SharkDefenders, and the country where you live (i.e. #Brasil, #USA, #Fiji). You can also email your photos to to make sure we find them.

There are 177 countries and territories that are a party to CITES, and Shark Stanley hopes to find at least 20 people in each one.

Leah and Onon, the students leading the campaign, will take all your photos and compile them into a unique petition showcasing the global support for protecting sharks and manta rays at CITES.

In the coming weeks they will be working with renowned artist Dan Yagmin Jr. to develop characters for the other species up for protection, and will release an activity book for elementary school children.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Simply reply to this email. And if your organization would like to become a sponsor of the Shark Stanley campaign, please contact me. We're not asking for any monetary donations, just a promise to help us obtain photos by writing about the campaign on your website and emailing your supporters. We are currently working on Stanley's Partners and Supporters page, and will post your logo with a link back to your website.

Thank you for your continued support,
Angelo Villagomez
Shark Defenders

Thursday, November 8, 2012

APASEEM Annual Conference next week

Another opportunity for the public to learn about science and the environment in and around our islands!

The Asia Pacific Academy of Science, Education and Environmental Management (APASEEM) is hosting their annual conference November 13-15th from 3:30-6:30pm in the American Memorial Park auditorium. 

This event is free and open to the public and will feature talks by science and environmental management professionals who do work in and around the Mariana Islands. Feel free to join for all or any part of the conference. 

The conference schedule can be found at APASEEM's website --

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

Reposted from Kilili Newsletter, dated Friday, November 2, 2012:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Sea Grant College Program will provide an educational experience in the policies and processes of programs that have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources, initiated the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship Program. The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship Program meets NOAA's Mission goal of "Protect, Restore and Manage the Use of Coastal and Ocean Resources Through Ecosystem-Based Management." Closing date is March 29, 2013. For more information go to

Monday, October 29, 2012

Women & Minorities Scholarship Opportunity: Pursue an advanced degree in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology

Reposted from Kilili Newsletter, dated Friday, October 26, 2012:

Nancy Foster Scholarship Program – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is soliciting applications for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program from individuals, particularly women and minorities, who, due to financial constraints, may otherwise not be able to pursue an advanced degree in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology (including all science, engineering, social science, and resource management of ocean and coastal areas). The program seeks to boost the number of women and minorities in these scientific disciplines, particularly as they relate to the mission of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Closing date is December 6, 2012. For more information, go to

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shark for Manta Ray Protections

Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia have put forth a proposal to list manta rays at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.  If successful, governments will have to manage the trade of these charismatic animals.  Want to show your support?  Post this photo to Facebook and Twitter.  You can Pin it, too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why Do We Explore?: An introduction to "Why Do We Explore the Mariana Trench?"

We thought you might like to know that NOAA is going to be here tomorrow providing education materials and training for classroom teachers related to the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. We are confident that this is only the beginning.

Thanks to Heidi and Kara for making the time and taking the trip! We look forward to seeing you again for your next session in March as well!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Micronesia Speaks Up to Save Sharks

Sharks are rapidly disappearing from the world's oceans, primarily as a result of the demand for their fins, which are valued as a soup ingredient in some cultures. Each year, up to 73 million of these animals are killed by humans. However, advocates in the Pacific would like to put a stop to this activity.

Soon, an area covering more than 2 million square miles of the western Pacific Ocean—approximately two-thirds the size of the land area of the United States—is slated to become the world's largest shark sanctuary, and the first created through a regional agreement among governments. The resolution, which was negotiated last year, also authorizes the development of a regional ban on the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia, which includes Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae.

This short video, produced by the Pew Environment Group, demonstrates the need for countries to implement the agreement and recounts the successful efforts of Guam, where thousands of students and other citizens spoke out about the importance of safeguarding these important keystone species.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Refuge Photo Contest now open!


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Calling all Refuge System photographers!

The 2012 Refuge Photo Contest is now open and accepting entries through October 12, 2012, the end of National Wildlife Refuge Week. This year Southwest Airlines, the official airlines of NWRA, has generously donated the grand prize of $2,000 and 4 round trip tickets. For more information and contest details please

Each year we receive outstanding images that showcase the natural beauty and wonder of our wildlife refuges. We look forward to your submissions!

The NWRA Team

P.S. Don’t forget to ‘like’ our facebook page at for contest updates and previews of the outstanding 2012 photos!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Monument council achieves goals

Report by the Marianas Variety

IN its second and final day, the Mariana trench monument advisory council concluded its inaugural meeting yesterday at Fiesta Resort.

Council member Roy Tsutsui, defense coordinating officer, Department of Defense based on Guam, facilitated an expedited and productive morning drilling down into finalizing a draft of the organizational and procedural guidelines regarding the council’s work.

“Imagine writing the NMI Covenant or the U.S. Constitution in three hours,” described Lisa K. Croft, deputy regional administrator, NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office and agency participant.

The rest of the council was equally as impressed with Tsutsui’s ability to keep the process flowing and enabling consensus.

“Roy did a terrific job today and we’re off to a good start,” stated Dr. John Joyner, newly elected council vice chairman and special advisor to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.

Ben Sablan, former secretary of Department of Land and Natural Resources was voted chairman.
Now that the groundwork and framework was achieved the advisory council now will turn its attention to discussing and adopting recommendations for the management of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument established in January 2009.

Once the council’s recommendations are completed and agreed upon they will be forwarded to the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce for review.

Marine monument council holds inaugural meeting

Reported by the Saipan Tribune

Marine monument council holds inaugural meeting

Members of the Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council gathered yesterday for its inaugural meeting, marking a historic and defining milestone since the group's creation following the designation of one of the nation's largest marine monuments three years ago.

As interest and excitement build up, however, council members and regular folk are all too aware that it is just beginning and that the volume of work remains substantial, even as the first of the two-day meeting proved to be productive, according to participants.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial welcomed the advice-giving body composed of U.S. Department of Defense's Roy Tsutsui, U.S. Coast Guard's Morgan Roper, CNMI's Arnold Palacios, Benigno M. Sablan, and Dr. John Joyner.

The meeting, held at the Azucena II Room of Fiesta Resort & Spa in Garapan, also saw the attendance of officials and representatives of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In his opening remarks, Fitial laid down his expectations for the 96,714 square miles of the nation's most pristine marine environments, with the fulfillment of the six key components of the Marianas Monument Agreement and the promised “full traditional indigenous access and practices in the Islands Unit.”

Fitial also sought the “full cooperation and support” of the national government for the conveyance up to 3 miles of nearshore submerged lands for all islands in the Commonwealth. He requested the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Interior to “honor” their role in the agreement to develop provisions that would authorize mineral exploration and extraction and other activities that would bring in income for the CNMI.

“We have many difficult challenges facing us and I have instructed the [advisory council] members to immediately start work in achieving the monument vision mutually agreed to by the people of the Marianas and the Bush administration,” said Fitial.

Part of the meeting was the election of council officials. Chosen were Sablan as chair, Joyner as vice chair, and Roy Tsutsui as secretary/treasurer. Palacios also officially received his appointment to the council yesterday.

Tuesday's meeting concluded with five action items that the council members will need to work on and report about today.

Superintendent Susan White of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Pacific Reefs said that the council was finally able to organize itself, although the process of finally convening the body took longer than expected.

“This is the foundation on which the rest of the advisory council will continue to operate,” she said.

Lisa Ku'ulei Croft, deputy regional administrator for NOAA NMFS, said the council will be working on establishing the frequency of its meetings.

Sablan, for his part, said that with the inaugural council meeting comes the “beginning of understanding” of the importance of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

“We're moving forward to make our people not only understand but really appreciate the context of a proclamation of this magnitude and its advantages for many future generations,” he added.

Palacios, who is also the secretary of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, noted the need to engage the community in the planning and implementation of the management plan for the monument.

“We are certainly looking at the interest of the Commonwealth notwithstanding national interests,” he said. 

Cartoonist Jim Toomey on Sharks and Ocean Health

Jim Toomey, renowned ocean life cartoonist, says there's a lot we can learn from Sherman the shark.

For 15 years, Toomey has been creating the daily comic strip Sherman's Lagoon, which appears in over 150 newspapers in North America. It combines Toomey's two lifelong passions: drawing and the sea. Now, he's partnered with the Pew Environment Group to create a series of short films to help educate people about ocean life.

The inspiration for Toomey's comic strip can be traced back to a family vacation in the Bahamas where he saw a real shark swimming in a remote lagoon. The Bahamas also happens to be the site of one the world's first shark sanctuaries, a place where sharks are completely protected from fishing. Since they are at the top of the food chain, protecting sharks is an important part of maintaining a healthy marine life balance. In a new film, Toomey enlists the help of Sherman himself to illustrate just how important sharks are to ocean health.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Monument Blame Game

First of all, let me just say that I am sending you this as an individual, not on behalf of any organization.

I read the article about the monument in the February 11 Saipan Tribune and have several comments. The criticisms made are clearly an issue of Ben Sablan trying to create controversy ahead of a visit by federal officials. Several of his statements are off-base. Others are blatant falsehoods.

The reason the CNMI only has two seats on the monument advisory council right now is because the third seat was given to former DFW director Sylvan Igisomar. He recently retired and moved to Texas. Arnold Palacios was a last minute replacement, and the federal government hasn't approved him yet. In fact, the local government hasn't even approved Palacios in his position, so it is ridiculous to criticize the federal government on this issue. Incidentally, Palacios has been invited to participate in the meetings as a full member.

The $333 million "benefit" referred to by Sablan is also misleading. The University of Guam professor who authored the study Sablan cites talked about a 2008 "present value" of $333 million, which is an economic term to describe what the area could be worth. The economic benefit the study predicted was actually only about $10 million per year, with funds coming from a combination of federal funding, a boost in tourism from increased international exposure, and high-end tourism and research in the Northern Islands. Unfortunately Dr. Iverson made some incorrect assumptions about the proposed monument (He also failed to predict the Great Recession and the rise of the Tea Party, which are by far the biggest reason the federal government has yet to fund the monument).

First of all, Iverson predicted the monument would be the largest or second largest in the world, which it is not. The Islands Unit, the only part of the monument that is a marine protected area, is only 10% of the size proposed by the Friends of the Monument. Logically, a small marine protected area needs less funding than a large marine protected area. Second, the study assumed the manager of the monument would be NOAA Office of Marine National Sanctuaries. However, management authority was given to US Fish & Wildlife Service, which is a different government agency in a different federal department with different priorities and different budgets. If Dr. Iverson were to reassess his numbers with these new assumptions, the numbers would be different and likely much less than $10 million. I encourage readers to read the study to come to their own conclusions.

Read the economic study here.

Also, while it is very easy to play the blame game, it must be noted that the CNMI had a great opportunity to fund the monument with ARRA. Were any ARRA funds requested for the monument? Or were certain people still steaming over its declaration and hoping that they could get it overturned rather than get it funded and working? There are some people, including Sablan, who want to see and are working very hard to make the monument fail. The opportunity to fund the monument with ARRA has now passed.

As for the concrete economic benefits that have been received since the monument's declaration, much of the credit is due to Delegate Kilili's hard work. He helped secure $1/4 million the year the monument was declared to design a visitors center. For a number of reasons related to local politics, that money hasn't been spent and a visitors center has not been designed. That is not the federal government's fault; that is the local government's fault. Delegate Kilili also sponsored a bill that would have actually built the visitor's center in the Northern Marianas once it was designed, but that bill has yet to pass due to national politics and the current state of the national economy (You may remember when RNC Chairman Michael Steele visited the CNMI during the 2010 election and promised to cut federal spending? He delivered on his promise).

Despite the economic downturn, the federal government has hired at least two full-time employees on Saipan. I'll respect their privacy in this matter, but those jobs are a direct result of the monument declaration. They pay local taxes and support local businesses, creating jobs in the private sector. And despite Sablan's claim to the contrary, federal officials have visited Saipan on numerous occasions, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and supporting job creation in the private sector. The 2010 Coral Reef Task Force was also held in Saipan to highlight the creation of the monument. This conference brought tens of thousands of dollars to the local economy.

The CNMI also continues to receive global media attention due to the monument and other unrelated but similar environmental initiatives, such as the 2011 shark fin ban introduced by Diego Benavente and signed by Governor Fitial. This is international attention MVA would otherwise have to pay a premium on, so it saves the government untold hundreds of thousands of dollars at the same time it attracts tourists who spend money in the local economy. This is something the CNMI should leverage, which to date it has not.

And despite these unfounded criticisms, most importantly, our children are already benefiting from the monument declaration, and it was for them many of you reading this supported the monument's creation. In 2009, a recent graduate of Marianas High School was taken to the monument and wrote a book about that experience. Hundreds of copies of his book Our Northern Islands have been donated to the public schools, and once the Friends of the Monument raise more money, more will be donated. Before the monument was declared, how many people could even name the Northern Islands? Now our children have photos and stories to share from them. Also, NOAA provided our public schools with 100 copies of a lesson plan about exploring the Mariana Trench and trained Agnes McPhetres to "teach the teachers" on how to use them.

The community should be excited that they have the opportunity to participate in the management of their monument. Despite misconceptions that the federal government was going to take this part of the Marianas away, what they are really doing is reminding our people that this part of our home still belongs to us and that we need to take care of it. I encourage the community to attend the upcoming public meetings and to continue to work hard to protect our fragile natural heritage.

Angelo Villagomez
Washington, DC