In the Pacific Islands the ocean is life and we need local and global action to safeguard it for future generations

By Carlotta Leon Guerrero

Wherever in the world you’re reading this we share a backyard—our ocean. In fact, we humans share nothing so completely, or as vast, as the ocean.

Here in the Pacific Islands, the ocean is life. For thousands of years it has provided food, dictated the weather, and served as the transportation system for our people. On Guam, we’re seeing a resurgence in traditional voyaging and sailing, a cultural practice that ties our people and history to the ocean. Enabling this renaissance to reach its full potential requires a healthy marine environment, as wayfinders rely on nature to provide navigational tools—such as birds, fish, and currents—to help them find islands beyond the horizon.

But in the brief span of my lifetime, our ocean has become warmer, more acidified, more polluted, and increasingly devoid of sea life, a deadly combination that threatens the viability of many coastal communities and, in some cases, entire island nations.

Clearly the time to act is now, and the big blinking arrow of scientific evidence points us to a way to responsible ocean stewardship: the creation of marine protected areas that keep full ecosystems intact, such as the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument does in my own ocean backyard. Scientists tell us that these large marine protected areas work. They protect the thousands of creatures that depend on a healthy food web, and they bring more and bigger fish, and have higher biodiversity, than do unprotected areas—thus ensuring ecosystem health and balance. Above all, by protecting our ocean, these areas help build resilience in the face of climate change.

That’s why I have become a Pew Bertarelli Ocean Ambassador, joining other leaders from around the world in a new initiative to advocate for the creation of large marine protected areas as one of the most effective ways to protect and conserve the ocean. All of us in the ambassador program, including co-chairs John Kerry and David Cameron, staunchly believe that a healthy ocean is vital to humankind’s future. 

Protecting the marine environment is not new to Pacific islanders. For millennia, we have recognized when areas have been fished too heavily and set them aside as no-fishing zones until they returned to their former productivity. Across Micronesia, this concept has a few different names: mo in the Marshall Islands, for instance, and bul in Palau.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Ambassadors, convened by the Bertarelli Foundation—under the guidance of foundation co-chair Dona Bertarelli—and The Pew Charitable Trusts, serve as ambassadors for ocean conservation and support national efforts to secure and implement marine reserves. While recent years have seen an increase in countries enacting protections, even taken together these measures are well short of what’s needed. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recommended safeguarding at least 30 percent of the world’s ocean by 2030 in order to reverse negative impacts and sustain long-term ocean health; currently, only 3.6 percent of the ocean has any level of protection, and a mere 1.8 percent is classified as “strongly protected,” according to 2018 data from the U.S.-based non-governmental Marine Conservation Institute.

As an ocean ambassador, I’ll work to protect our marine environment so that someday my grandchildren will look out on her ocean backyard and see that it’s as healthy as it was when I was a little girl. As a global society, we’re very quickly approaching a definitive choice: to either protect this irreplaceable resource or forever forfeit our expectation that it will provide for us. I sincerely hope we have the collective conscience—and the political will—to choose the right course.

Carlotta Leon Guerrero, a native of Guam, is the executive director of the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation and served in the Guam Legislature from 1994 to 2000. 

Add a comment

Illegal sand mining and dredging

It is reported that illegal sand mining and dredging is the third largest global criminal enterprise behind counterfeiting and drug trafficking.  Illegal sand mining and dredging is ranked higher as a global criminal activity than human trafficking and illegal logging, ranked fourth and fifth respectively.  Air, water and sand are the most consumed natural resources in the world and we are running out of sand because organized criminal syndicates motivated by greed and business profit are illegally harvesting sand all over the world.  Sand is used extensively in construction and is the principal component of concrete, glass, mortar, and brick manufacture.  Sand is used throughout the world to make landfills and construct artificial reefs and has many industrial uses such as in hydraulic fracturing to harvest underground natural gas and in the manufacture of chemicals and plastics.

Sand is not a sustainable resource.  It takes millions of years to make a bed of sand and indiscriminate extraction of the resource has severe environmental and social consequences.  Uncontrolled mining of sand causes erosion, flooding and loss of shorelines.  It is reported that 75% to 80% of the world’s beaches are retreating, in part caused by harvesting sand.  When a large volume of sand is sucked up from the ocean floor waves and currents are impacted and gravity gradually fills in the hole impacting the coast line of adjacent shores.  It is reported that 25 islands in Indonesia have disappeared in part because of illegal sand mining.  Sand is essential to maintain our source of food and its uncontrolled harvest can result in loss of habitat for marine life, loss of biodiversity, and in the long term, impaired food security.

The Pohnpei Legislature amended Chapter 9 of Title 42 of the Pohnpei Code to regulate and control mining and dredging.  The Legislature established a statutory regime to regulate and control all mining and dredging for materials, including coral and sand, on public trust lands and designated the Board of Trustees of the Pohnpei Public Lands Trust as the sole entity to authorize issuance of permits to mine or dredge.  The Board of Trustees and Pohnpei State Government, with a view toward protecting our shorelines from erosion and limiting damage to marine habitat, must serve as stewards of this limited natural resource and be the guardians of our future wellbeing by regulating the mining of sand and dredging of coral, determining the appropriate locations of mining and dredging and restricting the amount of material which can be taken from any one location.

Dana W. Smith 

Add a comment

The article on page 10 of your recent issue “Four arrested in conjunction with illegal dredging in Sokehs” should have read “Four wrongfully arrested for no valid reason at all”

The arrest of Mr. Jose San Nicolas, and his friends Mr. Sohs Abraham, and Mr. Juan San Nicolas was most unfortunate!  And very sad indeed!  The arrest was without probable cause.  The arrest was without a warrant.  The arrest was wrongful. The arrest was illegal.  The search was conducted without probable cause.  The search conducted was without a warrant.  The search was illegal.  The search was scary.  And their confinement in jail was illegal.

As couple of days later, the Pohnpei law enforcement gang, equipped with a search and an arrest warrant arrested Jose San Nicolas, Sohs Abraham, Juan San Nicolas and John Sog.  A couple of days later, the Pohnpei law enforcement gang again raided The San Nicolas business premises.

Pohnpei Public Lands Trust Board of Trustees, Pohnpei State Government Permit No. 059-15, issued its Permit No. 059-15 to Marcia David and Reed David, Jr., on January 12, 2018, as permittee to remove dyke and landfill at Danpei, Sokehs.  Attached herewith is a true and correct copy of Permit No. 059-15.  As a permittee, the Davids entered into a contract with Whitesand Company for the dyke removal and landfill.  Whitesand Company is a local company which engages in sand mining and dredging and is owned by Miko San Nicolas and his nephew, Larry San Nicolas.  Attached herewith are copies of Whitesand Company business license.

VCS Company is a local company which engages in construction, import of construction supplies and operation of a cement block plant in Kolonia.  VCS is owned by Juan San Nicolas.  Attached hereto is a true and correct copy of its business license.  VCS does not engage in sand mining and dredging.

There exists a privity between The Pohnpei Public Trust Board of Trustees, Pohnpei and the permittees, Marcia David  and Reed David, Jr., by virtue of issuance of Permit No. 059-15 to the Davids by the Board of Trustees.  As permittee, the Davids are answerable to the board of trustees for issues or matters pertaining to the terms of the permit.  However, instead of arresting the permittee for an alleged possible violation of the terms of the permit, Pohnpei State law enforcement gang went out and engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crimes and illegally arrested Jose San Nicolas, Sohs Abraham, John Jog, and Juan San Nicolas and threw them in jail.

Thus, the wrongful and illegal arrest of Jose San Nicolas has radically re-defined the meaning of the word “Permittee” by introducing additional new elements in its ordinary meaning.  The word “Permittee” now has a new meaning:  One who engages in construction, imports construction supplies, and operates a cement block plant can be considered as “Permittee”, and subject easily to wrongful and illegal arrest by the Pohnpei law enforcement gang.

John Weilbacher

via Larry San Nicolas

Add a comment