Saturday, September 14, 2013

Advisory council urged to make visitors center a reality

The Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council finally adopted its long-awaited bylaws in governing the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument yesterday, even as concerned citizens and even a member of the council urged it to make the promised visitors center a reality.

Department of Land Natural Resources Secretary Arnold Palacios said that since the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library hosted a forum on the monument, he has received a number of comments criticizing the council for the lack of updates on the visitors center.

Palacios, along with Ben Sablan and Frank Rabauliman, make up the CNMI’s representatives on the council.

Palacios said there’s been a lot of backlash from the community on the slow pace of economic benefits the federal government promised when former President George W. Bush declared the Marianas Trench part of its Blue Legacy.

“There’s been a lot of promises made to the community but so far we’re not able to pull it off…We should do it and, if not, let’s just fold camp and go home,” he said.

NOAA deputy regional administrator Lisa Croft shared Palacios’ sentiments, saying the council should now work together to make sure that the commitments made by the federal government is followed.

She also acknowledged that a lot of promises and commitments made by the federal government have been broken.

The council held its second meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan and among those who attended were Sablan, Rabauliman, Palacios, Department of Defense representative Roy Tsutsui, and representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and other local and federal agencies.

In the comments portion of the meeting, former representative Rosemond Santos described the designation of the monument in 2011 as “modern day colonialism.”

She said the local community, especially the indigenous people of the CNMI, were not consulted when President Bush placed under federal protection 95,216 square miles of submerged lands and waters in various places in the Mariana archipelago as part of his Blue Legacy.

Cultural historian Genevieve Cabrera, meanwhile, urged the federal government to talk to the community instead of making decisions and policies behind their backs.

“If you show respect then respect will be shown back to you,” she said.

Another former lawmaker, William Torres, also told the council to consider the Northern Marianas College as the location of the monument visitors center.

Attaching the visitors center to the local community college would allow it to apply for federal grants and these will be a much-needed financial boost to NMC, he said.

The CNMI Legislature came out with a joint resolution in April, urging the council to designate Marpi as the site of the visitors center because of its easy access to tourists and residents alike.

Recently, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) made known his preference for the visitors center to be on Rota, to make the island the ecotourism hub of the Commonwealth.

Architect Herman Cabrera just finished a study that plans to use the old Japanese lighthouse on Navy Hill as the site of the visitors center.

Published in the Saipan Tribune

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obama Set to Punch Donut Holes in Bush's Legacy

The United States House of Representatives today passed a bill conferring submerged lands to the Commonwealth and delaying two year's worth of increases in the federal minimum wage.  S.256 passed 415-0.  The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate and now heads to President Barack Obama's desk.

This law, once signed and enacted, opens the most biological diverse region of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument to commercial fishing until such time that the Commonwealth government extends the constitutional protections for the islands to the newly conferred territorial seas.

Government leaders who have called for co-management now have to show they were serious by implementing legislation to protect this important area.  There is nothing to co-manage until such time the area is protected.

The Friends of the Monument called on Delegate Kilili to include co-management language in his bill; the call went unheeded.

Territorial sea bill passes House, now goes to President for signature

Washington, D.C. – A bill conveying ownership of the seabed around each of the Northern Mariana Islands to the Commonwealth government passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 415 - 0. The Northern Marianas is the only U.S. coastal state or territory that does not have ownership of these offshore lands, which can be leased for economic activities and managed to preserve environmental resources. S.256 passed the Senate by unanimous consent on August 1, so the bill now goes to the President for signature and enactment into law.

Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-00)
423 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Visit Congressman Sablan's virtual office at
Keep up-to-date: : Click here to subscribe to the e-kilili weekly newsletter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A visitors’ center worthy of the marine monument

As one of the framers of our Constitution, my father knew the value of our natural resources to our culture and argued for permanent protections for MaƱagaha, and the three northernmost islands of Asuncion, Maug, and Uracas. He taught me that it is the responsibility of every indigenous person to ensure that these islands are passed down to the next generation in the same condition in which they were passed down to us.

That’s why I worked so hard alongside The Friends of the Monument and The Pew Charitable Trusts to help create the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

It is an indisputable fact that the people of the Northern Marianas support environmental protection and it is no wonder that there was such a tidal wave of support for the creation of the Marianas Trench Monument.

When the monument was declared on Jan. 6, 2009, then governor Benigno R. Fitial, then Senate president Pete P. Reyes, and then House speaker Arnold Palacios led in celebration 6,000 local residents, 500 students, and 206 businesses. As I recall, Governor Fitial was so elated he hugged President George W. Bush right after the signing.

In a letter to the editor, former representative Cinta M. Kaipat wrote that the goals of the monument were to “create federally funded local jobs, give a needed boost to our struggling tourism industry, bring positive worldwide attention to our shores, and most importantly, protect three of our islands and their surrounding waters for generations to come.” (Saipan Tribune, May 1, 2008)

Much has been accomplished toward achieving these goals. In the last five years there has been positive media attention for the islands, renewed interest in scientific exploration of the area, and a federally funded office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened in Garapan. But work still needs to be done. Everyone must come together to move ahead with creating the visitor center and bringing to fruition the economic promise of this impressive marine reserve.

In 2009, the same year the monument was declared, Delegate Gregorio Sablan earmarked $220,000 in the fiscal year 2010 Consolidated Appropriation Act (HR 3288) for the design of our visitor center. It was a proud moment. Our first representative in the U.S. Congress passed one of his first bills.

The Friends and Pew worked with the delegate’s office and with NOAA, the recipient of the funding, to draft a grant to the CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources to “develop a process for engaging input from the public to create a visitor and education center that will incorporate our existing marine protected areas and the new Marianas Trench National Monument.” (Delegate Sablan, letter to DLNR Secretary Ignacio Dela Cruz, Dec. 30, 2009)

The plan was to develop an architectural blueprint so that Delegate Sablan, along with the Friends and Pew, could ask Congress to fund the construction. Although progress stalled at the local level, today we have a new governor, a new DLNR secretary, and from what I understand from media reports, soon we’ll have a new architectural plan for a monument visitor center. This is excellent news, and everyone who had a hand in its completion deserves congratulations.

Soon it will be time to take the plan to Washington, and I know the Friends, Pew and our elected officials will do all they can to help. But there is no guarantee that federal funding will be available. In the meantime, the Friends continue to work with the community on outreach and education. Pew has supported these efforts and continues to engage with CNMI leaders at the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures, Micronesian Chief Executive Summit, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

The people of the Northern Mariana Islands should be proud of what we have accomplished. From the Micronesia Challenge, to the Marianas Trench Monument, and most recently our leadership in global shark conservation, the world is taking notice. Let’s welcome them with a visitor center worthy of these efforts.

Angelo Villagomez is with The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council Meeting Sept. 12 at Hyatt Regency Saipan

The Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council (MTMAC) is holding a meeting to provide advice and recommendations on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (Monument).

The meeting will be held on September 12, from 8:30am to 4pm at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Chamolinian Conference Room.

The public is invited to attend the meeting and will have an opportunity to comment from 4pm to 5pm.

Members of the MTMAC and agency representatives from NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be available to answer questions and provide additional information on the planning process for the Monument.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Order Revolution on DVD

Order Revolution on DVD
Rob's new film is available on DVD!  We love it -- an not just because our friends are in it.
Revolution is a film about changing the world. The true-life adventure of Rob Stewart, this follow-up to his acclaimed Sharkwater documentary continues his remarkable journey; one that will take him through 15 countries over four years, and where he'll discover that it's not only sharks that are in danger - it's humanity itself. In an effort to uncover the truth and find the secret to saving the ecosystems we depend on for survival, Stewart embarks on a life-threatening adventure. From the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea and deforestation in Madagascar to the largest and most destructive environmental project in history in Alberta, Canada, he reveals that all of our actions are inter connected and that environmental degradation, species loss, ocean acidification, pollution and food/water scarcity are reducing the Earth's ability to house humans. How did this happen, and what will it take to change the course that humanity has set itself on? Travelling the globe to meet with the dedicated individuals and organizations working on a solution, Stewart finds encouragement and hope, pointing to the revolutions of the past and how we've evolved and changed our course in times of necessity. If people were informed about what was really going on, they would fight for their future - and the future of other generations. From the evolution of our species to the revolution to save it, Stewart and his team take viewers on a groundbreaking mission into the greatest war ever waged. Startiling, beautiful, and provocative, Revolution inspires audiences from across the globe to start a revolution and change the world forever.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

APASEEM Call for Presenations

The Asia Pacific Academy of Sciences, Science Education, and Environmental Management (APASEEM) is presently putting forth this Call for Presentations for our upcoming annual meeting (2013). APASEEM is also proud to announce its new website, at Please help us distribute this announcement widely to all on your professional contacts list.

In keeping with tradition, we target using the week before Thanksgiving for the presentations conference. The tentative date(s) scheduled is Tuesday, November 19th, and if needed, also Wednesday November 20th, and Thursday November 21st, with the initial meeting to run from 3:30pm to 6:30pm. As in the past, we are reserved to hold the event at the American Memorial Park Auditorium, which seats up to 112 people.

All interested science and environmental professionals--and teachers and students of these disciplines--are encouraged to develop a 15 to 20 minute presentation on an aspect of their recent work which may be of interest to the CNMI's science, science education, and environmental management community. To get scheduled on the meetings' agenda, just contact any officer (see email addresses below). An abstract of your talk, which we began to include last year, will help us to better advertise our conference, so please send us one when able to. For examples please see past year's talks (below).

We are also using this opportunity to continue our ongoing membership drive. Spread the word we mostly operate on annually due membership fees and contributions. If you've been thinking about becoming a dues-paying active member, or if your affiliation or agency is able to do so, please encourage this and please join. A reminder--most of us remember to pay at or around the date of our annual conference and that fees for professional organizations are tax deductible. Remember speakers get half off on annual fees if they've presented sometime during the previous year. Group rates available for any organization, public or private--see website for fees and mailing address. Potential new members and/or potential group officers are highly encouraged to make contact with us.

Please contact Ken Kramer (president) via; or Michael Trianni (vice president) via; or Andre Kozij (secretary) via; or John Furey (treasurer) via to get on this year’s conference schedule. The organization also now has a Gmail account for general correspondence,


The Asia Pacific Academy of Sciences, Science Education, and Environmental Management (APASEEM) is a nonexclusive professional association, initially begun in April 2004 and formally established in November 2008. The group’s official US and CNMI-recognized ‘501C (3) Nonprofit Status' was accomplished in July, 2011. The Academy’s base is in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands with most meetings held on Saipan. 

The goals of APASEEM are to serve as an advocacy-neutral hosting forum for science, science education, and environmental management presentations; to promote discussions of mutual interest amongst regional science and environmental management professionals, teachers, students, and the general public; and to help sponsor grant & donation-funded noteworthy projects within these disciplines. The addition in 2008 of “Science Education” to our group’s focus areas expanded APASEEM’s encompassing scope and potential audiences considerably. In Summer 2009, as its first major project-support effort, the group helped to host the Tinian Discovery Camp. In Summer 2011, the group co-sponsored a large group training event for monitoring reef health and coral bleaching occurrences. In 2012, the group carried out a major grant activity to develop a video production depicting the first voyage to the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. 2013 has been one of our group's most active presentations years. Presently the group is undertaking exploring a major project to articulate and display two locally preserved whale skeletons.

To date, the Academy has completed 1 major video production, hosted/sponsored 34 formal activities/meetings--combining both special meetings and sessions of general meetings--1 summer camp, 1 organized reef monitoring training session, 2 environmental expo displays, and 101 formal and informal presentations, these delivered by 212 individual presenters. Several persons have participated in more than one APASEEM presentation/activity.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Help Hawaii Win their Bid for the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Conference

Please Do All That You Can Personally To Reach Out To Your Contacts And Friends As We Need To Activate Your Networks To Help Us Get More Senators To Sign Onto The Letter. 

Aloha Friends,

Hawaii is currently in the running to host the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Conference. We believe we have an excellent chance of winning the bid but in order to qualify we need the support of the United States Government. To do so Hawaii Senators Schatz and Hirono are circulating a Dear Colleague letter asking their fellow senators to sign a letter to Secretary Kerry asking for his support.

Please help us by encouraging your senators to support the bid by signing on to the letter to Secretary Kerry.

To find your Senator click here or copy and paste the link below:

To read the Dear Colleague letter click here or copy and paste the link below:

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network representing more than 160 countries. This body, which is essentially the “UN for the environment,” has never, in its 65 year history, met in the US.

The IUCN has provisionally allowed the Hawaii to begin the bid process; however, a formal bid must be submitted by the Department of State. The effort is truly a national one and we firmly believe that hosting the WCC is in our national interest as a world economic, social, and environmental leader.

For the U.S., and the State of Hawaii, to host this Congress would give strong and clear global voice to the President’s commitment to the environment and to positioning the U.S. as a world leader in finding creative solutions to these most pressing issues.

Thus far we have been unable to convince the Department of State to submit a formal bid by the September 12, 2013 deadline. Help us by encouraging your senators to sign on to the letter to Secretary Kerry.

Find your senator here

Read the letter here

Mahalo for your help!

Esther Kia'aina
First Deputy
Department of Land and Natural Resources

Thursday, August 1, 2013

House renews wildlife refuge volunteers program

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The House by voice vote last night passed a bill to extend volunteer and community partnership programs at the nation's wildlife refuges through 2017.

H.R. 1300, by Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), would allow the National Wildlife Refuge System to expand its volunteer programs and encourage environmental education efforts, the Interior Department said.

Current authorization for the programs was set to expire in 2014

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Northern Mariana Islands Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D), passed under suspension of the rules.

Jim Kurth, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, backed the bill at a hearing in April before the House Natural Resources Committee.

In 2012, volunteer work at refuges "skyrocketed" to more than 56,000 individuals who donated more than 2 million hours of time, the equivalent of more than 1,000 full-time employees, he said. The work was worth nearly $47 million, he added.

"They help implement conservation measures, provide environmental education and recreational opportunities to the American people, organize and carry out special events, and perform many other valuable services for fish and wildlife conservation and for the refuge system and its visitors," Kurth told the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. "These volunteers donate millions of hours of their time each year, and those volunteer hours continue to increase."

The program, which is authorized at $2 million annually, allows the Fish and Wildlife Service to recruit and train volunteers and provide them with food, housing, transportation and uniforms.

It also allows the agency to enter into cooperative agreements with partner organizations, academic institutions or state or local governments to support operations, maintenance and educational projects and develop refuge education programs.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

APASEEM Talks: Findings from Acoustic and Visual Surveys of Cetaceans in the Northern Mariana Islands

The Asia Pacific Academy of Sciences, Science Education, and Environmental Management (APASEEM) will host a science-focused public gathering on local whales and dolphins next Thursday, July 18th at the American Memorial Park auditorium, Saipan. Time is from 6:30 to 8pm. Everyone is invited to attend and learn about our region's various species of marine mammals from Dr. Erin Oleson, lead scientist for the Cetacean Research Program at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.

Dr. Oleson oversees the program’s mission to assess the abundance and status, including potential human-caused impacts, for all whale and dolphin (cetacean) populations within the Pacific Islands Region, including those near Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Erin’s research focuses on developing new passive acoustic technology to monitor the occurrence and behavior of whales and dolphins in remote regions or in situations where traditional visual methods are ineffective. In 2011 Erin was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for her work to bring new innovative technological solutions to fill critical data gaps in cetacean science in the Pacific Region. Research within the Cetacean Program focuses on pairing traditional survey techniques, including ship-based and small boat surveys for cetaceans, with new technologies, such as long-term acoustic recorders, animal-carried tags, and development of new autonomous sensors to develop new techniques for assessing cetacean populations. A copy of her PowerPoint slides from last year's talk is posted on the APASEEM website listed below.

With support from the U.S. Navy, the Cetacean Program has been conducting small boat surveys from Guam, Rota, and Saipan since 2010. To date these surveys have documented 20 species of cetaceans in the waters of the Marianas Archipelago, a figure which doubles the number which was known just two years ago. In addition, two long-term acoustic recorders have been deployed near Saipan and Tinian to monitor the presence of cetaceans year-round for comparison with these vessel surveys. Erin’s presentation will discuss some of the Program’s findings from the recent surveys and acoustic research in the Marianas. One year and five months of data available so far indicate the presence of several dolphin species, Bryde’s, humpback, and fin whales, at least three species of beaked whale, along with possible new species detected by this year's acoustical probes.

As at all APASEEM talks, questions from the audience are strongly encouraged. For more information visit the website or write to us via

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Update: NMFS posted approved management rule

Today, July 2, 2013, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced approval by the Office of Management and Budget of collection-of-information requirements contained in regulations implementing amendments to four western Pacific fishery ecosystem plans, relating to fishing in three marine national monuments. This rule is effective August 1, 2013.

View the rule and supporting documentation here:!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0070

or here:

This rule and management plan is one component by one of the responsible parties for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument management plan. A total Monument management plan will be created by all of the members of the MTMNM Council, which is expected to be started during the remaining months of 2013. Estimates suggest that the process will take up to 2-years.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Global Ocean Legacy Hero—Ignacio V. "Ike" Cabrera

This month, The Global Ocean Legacy team unveiled plans to begin regularly honoring honor individuals who have made a significant contribution to marine conservation through his or her dedication to a Global Ocean Legacy marine reserve project proposals. The first recipient of their Hero recognition award is Saipan's very own Ignacio V. "Ike" Cabrera. Congratulations Mr. Cabrera and thank you for your continued dedication!!!

The following is the story they printed in their eNewsletter: The Global Ocean Legacy Navigator:

Ike was a passionate and dedicated advocate for the designation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, and he continues to fight for better management and increased marine protection around the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Global Ocean Legacy managers Heather Bradner and Robert Mazurek presented Ike this honor on their recent trip to Saipan.

Like generations of marine conservationists before him, Ike Cabrera grew up in a fishing family. But unlike most, his character was shaped by being born and raised on the remarkable island of Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Saipan is the largest of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean. Although “large” in this case means 115 square kilometers (about 44 square miles) of land sandwiched between sandy beaches on the western shore and rugged rocky cliffs jutting into the ocean on the east.

Ike grew up plying Saipan’s pristine waters with his grandfather either gillnetting for tuna, bottom fishing for grouper, or spearfishing for his dinner. The ocean not only provided food and income for his family, but in many ways the ocean was a part of him.

Ike CabreraIke’s love for the ocean and his environment led him to a job working for the CNMI’s Environment Agency. This allowed him to make frequent visits to the Bird Island Sanctuary and Guguan Island, two of his favorite places and two of the Commonwealth’s first nature reserves. There he saw first-hand the benefits of protecting the environment for future generations.

After rising through the ranks, Ike became the Environment Agency’s director. And after twenty-three years of working for the government, he retired – at least officially.

Around this time, Global Ocean Legacy began promoting the importance of establishing a large, fully protected marine reserve around the northernmost islands of the Marianas archipelago. While enjoying retirement, Ike decided to play a public role in advocating for the monument and contributed his many skills and leadership to the effort. And, what a difference this made.

Ike helped launch Friends of the Monument, a grassroots organization that educated islanders about the need for increased marine protection around the Marianas Trench. Through his group, he collected signatures in favor of a new National Marine Monument and went to Washington, D.C., to advocate for such protection with legislators and White House staff. He is reported to have even “crashed” a wedding to increase the number of signatures, which he brought to Washington with him.

“For me, the most important thing was educating our people–and especially our youth–on the importance of the ocean environment,” Ike said. “The obvious need for increased protection came out of those conversations.”

All this hard work culminated in Ike’s invitation to the White House in January 2009 to witness then-President George W. Bush signing the proclamation that created the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

“That was a proud moment,” Ike said, “but there is still much more opportunity and work to be done.” Ike refers to the fact that currently, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is leading the effort to create the Monument’s first management plan. A draft plan is scheduled to be released and available for public comment sometime this year.

This article is reprinted at this blog from its original source: The Global Ocean Legacy Navigator: April 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Marianas Trench Marine National Monument update

Email announcement sent by Laura Beauregard US-FWS on April 11,2013:

A multi-year, multi-agency planning process continues to develop a Monument Management Plan (MMP) for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. As stated in Presidential Proclamation 8335, the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce are required to complete a MMP to guide the management of the monument’s resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working together in the development of the MMP, and in cooperation with the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. I am pleased to announce the availability of our latest planning update. Planning Update 3 provides a summary of the comments and questions we received during the public scoping meetings on Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and Guam last year, along with the initial agency responses.

To download, please visit:

Contact Info:
Hawaiian & Pacific Islands NWRC
300 Ala Moana Blvd, Rm 5-231
Honolulu, HI 96850