Wednesday, March 7, 2018

National Wildlife Refuge Association Friends Workshop

Hafa Adai and Tiirow from Saipan!

January was a busy month for Friends of the Mariana Monument Chairman Ignacio V. Cabrera and Secretary Laurie Peterka who were invited to attend the National Wildlife Refuge Association Friends workshop in Kaui’I. The invitation was in conjunction with having been awarded a Mentoring Grant from the same organization.

The Friends worked together with the National Wildlife Refuge manager in Guam to make the application for the grant in mid-December 2017.  The purpose of the mentoring grant is to help the Friends become more familiar with the way the National Wildlife Refuge and Friends relationships work and get both prepared for a future memorandum of understanding. The MOU will solidify the relationship and allow goals to be set for community outreach and special projects.

Visiting the closed area of the refuge up above Kilauea Point where the lighthouse is located. This is a very diverse group of folks who volunteer at refuges in Alaska, Hawaii and the CNMI. Some are also NWR employees. All are passionate about wildlife and connecting people with their refuge. — with Ilana Nimz, Ann Bell, Nicole Galase, Desiree Sorenson-Groves, Jennifer Waipa, Lamar Gore, Helen Fields, Joanna Webb, Crystal Leonetti, Heather Tonneson, Caroline Garrett Brouwer, Ignacio Cabrera and Chelsea McKinney and others at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The purpose of the workshop was to bring all the Friends groups in the Pacific together to work on a mutual agenda established at the 2016 meeting. This is only the second time the group has met. The workshop lasted five full days and included Friends board members giving presentations about their respective locations, hearing from the National Wildlife Refuge staff, facilitator-led working sessions to help Friends groups re-center, and field trips to three different Kaua’I Refuge complexes.

“We learned from the other Friends groups that we have similar issues,” said Cabrera. He added, “I was grateful for the Hawaiian chants they used as part of the process and the connection that the Hawaiian people have with their history and culture of protecting the ocean and the resources for our future generations. I would like to see more of this in the CNMI.”

“The days were 12-hours long and intense,” commented Peterka. “There were several ‘Ah ha!” moments for us on the third day when we did this half day exercise that helps drill down to finding the core reasons why our Friends group is so important for the world,” she added.

The Friends of the Mariana Trench now carry on for the rest of 2018 meeting with mentors appointed by the NWRA board to re-align itself and come up with plans that will help the community be more aware of everything about the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Scientists want to know more about CNMI ocean protections

Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, September 25, 2017 – As islanders, we are very appreciative of the ocean. We enjoy seafood, boating, swimming and all the other benefits our oceans provide. But how many of us really know about marine protected areas around the CNMI? Or about our very own Mariana Trench Monument, a marine protected area that is internationally recognized? Well a scientist from England, Danny Morris, also wanted to learn about our oceans, and he spent this past July and August on Saipan gathering data on this topic.

Danny is working towards his master’s degree at the University of York in England under the guidance Dr. Callum Roberts and Dr. Julie Hawkins, leading researchers in the field of ocean sciences. These scientists study the ocean and marine life all over the world. Dr. Roberts is an expert on coral reef biology and he also studies the relationship between humans and marine ecosystems. While Dr. Hawkins researches the environmental benefits of marine protected areas. Since the Mariana Trench Monument here in the CNMI is one of the world’s most unique marine protected areas, having animals that are not found anywhere else, Danny wanted to learn how we felt about ocean protection.

According to Danny, the Mariana Trench Marine Monument is very special and it was the CNMI’s conservation ethic that drew him to Saipan to conduct his research.

“Having a highly diverse ecosystem with many species in the deep waters that are yet to be discovered by scientists is so unique,” he explained. “And I wanted to see some of that for myself.”

“The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument was declared over 8-years ago, and was one of the first very large marine protected areas on the planet,” he continued. “I wanted to come learn about how that is viewed in the community.”

While Danny was on Saipan, he interviewed over 200 U.S. citizens to gain a better understanding of their view of marine protected areas around the Northern Mariana Islands. He spoke mainly to Chamorros, Carolinians, Filipinos, and other Micronesian ethnicities. People who were not citizens were not allowed to be surveyed.

He spent time in public places speaking to passersby, maybe you were able to speak with him and be interviewed for his scientific survey? He asked general questions about ocean protection, and more specific questions on marine protected areas and the Mariana Trench Marine Monument.

Danny’s work on the island is significant as ocean protection is important for maintaining our community and safeguarding our cultural legacy. According to scientists, at least 30 percent of the world’s ocean must be protected. While the Mariana Trench Monument seems to be a large protected area it is actually less than 5 percent of US waters. Scientists say that marine protected areas like the monument provides sanctuary to many marine animals so they can reproduce and move to other areas. They also say that marine protected areas are important to safeguard fragile animals like corals, and to protect species that are found nowhere else.

Many were pleased that Danny was able to conduct research here. Ignacio V. Cabrera, Chairman of the Friends of the Monument (FOM) said that he was happy to hear from Danny.

“It made me smile to know that these young scientists are taking an interest in what we have here,” Ike added. When not conducting his surveys, Danny spent time with various families in the community. Auntie Chailang Palacios and Uncle Bob Power hosted Danny at their home for several weeks.

“He’s a wonderful and polite young man,” said Chailang. “It was great fun for us to have him with us”, she added. While staying there, he was introduced to a variety of people including Agnes McPhetres, a co-founding chair of the FOM. Auntie Agnes was also delighted that Danny was here to study.

Danny is now home in England finishing his thesis to complete his Masters of Science degree in Marine Environmental Management. We expect to learn more about the results of Danny’s study in the coming weeks.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Scientists From Across the Globe Support Marianas Trench UNESCO Nomination

Dr. Andrew Thaler (left) with Saipan Southern High School My Wave President Reynafe Aniga (center) and Rick MacPherson (right).
Early this December, the National Park Service announced that the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument made the short list for UNESCO World Heritage designation. Though hidden beneath the water’s surface, the Mariana Trench, a unique geologic and ecologic landmark and a natural treasure, dwarfs the Grand Canyon in scale and scope.

Yesterday, a cohort of 55 members of the deep-sea research community, representing 46 institutions and 19 nations, delivered a letter in support of the nomination.

“The Marianas Trench is one of the most well-known and spectacular geological features on the planet,” said Dr. Andrew Thaler, who recently visiting the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. “Global recognition is long overdue.”

The Mariana Trench is more than a mile deeper than Mt. Everest is high and hosts Challenger Deep, the deepest point on Earth. It is also home to numerous sites of exceptional scientific value, including submerged volcanoes that host deep-sea hydrothermal vents, the largest documented mud volcanoes, coral atolls and fringing reef ecosystems that support apex predators like sharks and whales, as well as habitat-forming stony corals.

The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument would be the first World Heritage site to include unexplored ecosystems, including geologically active sites that promise new species, scientific discoveries, and insight into biological processes in the deepest ecosystem on earth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

LIVE from Underwater World of Guam

Rick MacPherson and Dr. Andrew Thaler gave a talk on conservation, science, and the Marianas Trench at the Underwater World of Guam on December 18, 2016.  Here's some poorly shot video of the talk:


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Marianas Trench Sanctuary

There is a story in the Marianas Variety today regarding the Marianas Trench.  I've noticed that over the years the archives of the local Saipan newspapers tend to get deleted, so I'm posting it here in its entirety, both for your reading pleasure and posterity's sake:
Rota lawmakers ask US to designate marine sanctuary process for Marianas Trench monument

MEMBERS of the Rota Legislative Delegation have introduced a resolution asking the U.S. to develop a marine sanctuary process that will strengthen protections for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Signed by Rep. Glenn Maratita, Sens. Teresita Santos, Paul Manglona, Steve Mesngon, Rota Legislative Delegation Commemorative Resolution 19-10 states that the monument, which was created by President George Bush in Jan. 2009, provides permanent protection for approximately 95,216 square miles of submerged lands, waters and deep sea in the Pacific Ocean.

The Marianas waters have been scientifically determined to be the single greatest marine priority for conservation in U.S. waters, the resolution says, adding that the threat of climate change makes protection of the monument a priority for the CNMI.

According to the resolution, the monument’s protection would benefit Northern Marianas residents who rely upon an intact and preserved marine ecosystem for cultural uses such as ocean voyaging.

“The president of the United States has been asked to initiate a marine sanctuary designation by Gov. Ralph Torres and Delegate Gregorio Camacho Kilili Sablan. [But] the existing management structure of the Mariana Trench Marine Monument does not prioritize educational programs and a visitor center….

“The Rota Legislative Delegation respectfully requests that sanctuary management plans include and highlight research, education, enforcement and visitor center elements particularly on the island of Rota.”
As this story develops, I encourage you to watch and share this video of the 20 minute poster session for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument from the IUCN Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii back in September.  It features several speakers from the federal management of the monument and Angelo Villagomez from The Pew Charitable Trusts talking about the culture of the monument: