$250K awarded for CNMI fisheries training program


Governor Ralph DLG. Torres officially announced last Tuesday the sub-award of $250,000 to the Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR) from the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac) to fund a fisheries training and demonstration program.

“We’ve been collaborating with Wespac for many years and I am very pleased to see this project moving forward. I believe that this will help with other fishing initiatives throughout the region. We are all very excited about this project and look ahead at sustainable fishery resources and training for the benefit of our community,” Governor Torres said.

International Fisheries, Pelagics, Enforcement, and NEPA Coordinator Eric K. Kingma, Ph.D. notified the Office of the Governor yesterday in preparation for its implementation in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been working with Governor Torres on developing this project which aims to train fishermen both in the classroom and the water to demonstrate primarily commercial bottom fishing operations. Council staff are available to work with DLNR staff to further develop the project including training and vessel leasing details,” Kingma said.

Kingma also noted that the CNMI is recognized for its substantial fisheries development opportunities including an indigenous culture linked to ocean navigation and fishing.

According to Secretary of Lands and Natural Resources Anthony Benavente, funds provided under this sub-award is specifically for a fisheries training and demonstration program to increase catches to meet expanding local demands by enhancing fishing skills to target bottom fish and other pelagic species.

“I have just signed the award agreement which has been forwarded to the Wespac Council. We are very grateful for the assistance of Wespac fisheries and look forward to strengthening our local capacity in terms of fish handling, storage and marketing. In a few months, we will keep the public informed as seafood purveyors, culinary experts and regional fisherman lead these trainings and assist us with strengthening this industry,” Benavente said.

The sub-award states that the program will include fishing methods, seafood handling for quality and safety, vessel handling and navigation and will begin with two cohorts per year beginning January 2019 and a final program report due by June 2021.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. Amended in 1996 to prevent overfishing, minimize by catch and protect fish stocks and habitat, it is now called the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

During its first 35 years, the Council’s accomplishments have run the gamut from being the first Regional Fishery Management Council in the nation to prohibit drift gill-net fishing and to develop an ecosystem-based fishery management plan to being the pioneer of the vessel monitoring system (VMS) for fishing vessels, which is now being implemented in fisheries worldwide. (PR)

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