BUSINESSES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Embraced by crystal clear blue waters that serve as home to invaluable marine biodiversity, people who call the CNMI home have been tirelessly working through many, many years to keep the Northern Mariana Islands pristine.
Yes, we benefit from the ocean—food sustenance and leisure-wise—but there is more to it with marine tourism.
The ocean economy covers about half of the CNMI’s total employment, employs up to 8,300 people yearly, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A 2019 study of the Eastern Research Group also valuated the ecosystem services from coral reef and seagrass habitats in the CNMI alone at $114.8 million annually.
Luckily, for the CNMI, there are marine-related businesses that get out of their way to help protect the ocean. FishGuyz Scuba & Charter is one of them.
FishGuyz is one of the most loved dive shops on the island, started in 2015 by PADI Master Scuba Diver trainer and U.S. Coast Guard captain Sydney Takahashi.
After working for more than two decades for and with other dive shops, Takahashi ventured out and established his own dive company that now boast of having a solid reputation for safety, stewardship, and fun. He is joined in this venture by his wife, HyunJae Lee; with Jesse Takahashi as their creative developer, Lisa Phair as manager, along with their multiple staff that include dive masters and boat captains.
FishGuyz had a beach cleanup activity on Tinian early this month, one of many that they do every year. Saipan Tribune was fortunate to go deep with Phair to talk about the dive company’s initiatives to conserve and protect the ocean.
Cleanups as company culture
“Beach and underwater cleanups are part of our company culture,” Phair said. “When you’re in the water as much as Syd and the boys are, you grow a deep respect and appreciation for the ocean and the abundant marine life.”
“It’s more than just a way of life—it’s something so ingrained that it’s part of who they are. It’s recognition that we all play a role in this and a desire to shoulder responsibility. These aren’t people that will leave their trash at the beach after a party. There would be so much shame in doing so because of what the ocean and the beaches provide.”
“This respect and responsibility grew well before Fishguyz was born as a business,” Phair added.
Last Oct.10, the FishGuyz group went to Unai Masalok on Tinian for a beach cleanup. Phair said they keep the Tinian cleanups within their group given limited boat space. But ordinarily, for their Saipan beach cleanups, anyone willing can volunteer—and they provide free tank rentals, along with a post-cleanup barbecue.
Phair said their largest haul was from Tinian, on Long Beach last May, when they collected 56 fifty-gallon bags weighing in at 1,942 lbs total. The trash they collected? Typical flotsam such as discarded buoys, ropes, bottles, shoes, crates, caps, and an abundance of other plastics, large and small.
The most common items they collected were bottle caps and plastic bottles.
Get into the habit: Pick up trash
Solid waste has long been a hot topic in the CNMI, more so lately, with the government pushing for a Universal Trash Collection system. Cleanups are being held all over the island by volunteer groups, and organizations like the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, Friends of the Mariana Trench, and Tasi to Table have environmental education campaigns all geared toward ocean protection.
But we can all help and it could just be as simple as picking up trash, like what the FishGuyz crew are doing.
“[To] all who are so lucky to call the CNMI their home, and to those that visit our islands…behave like the wildlife and don’t leave anything behind. And of course, leave every place nicer than when you arrived,” she said.
On one of her very first boat dives in the CNMI about eight years ago, Phair said they were cruising along after a dive when they suddenly slowed, and when she looked to see what was going on, it was Takahashi veering the boat to the left—to pick up a plastic bag.
“There was a plastic bag floating at the surface and he swung over to get it. Not to show off, not to lecture, just a regular normal habit of picking up trash from our ocean,” she said. “Similarly, there’s another diver in our group that never goes on a dive without a mesh bag and he always brings it back up at the end of the dive full of trash he’s picked up along the way.”
“What these examples have shown me time and time again is how easy it is to pick up trash as part of a regular habit. I think the message here is that you don’t need to organize or even join a beach or underwater cleanup to make a significant difference—you just need to pick stuff up as you go along.”
“Can you imagine if everyone did that?”
For more information, or to book a scuba diving class/adventure, contact FishGuyz Scuba & Charter via (670) 989-7703, or visit their website at https://www.fishguyzscuba.com.