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

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