CAO’s Nogis backs gillnet fishing
Cabera, Reyes oppose bill
In supporting a bill that would authorize the use of gillnet on Saipan and in the Northern Islands, Felix Nogis, the special assistant for the Carolinian Affairs Office, said that the CNMI’s ancestors have been practicing gillnet fishing or “tekking” throughout the years.
“As a result, such technique has become part of our custom to both Chamorros and Refaluwasch community,” said Nogis in his written testimony.
Antonio B. Cabrera, a former port manager for the Commonwealth Ports Authority, on the other hand, opposes the bill, saying gillnet can be a highly destructive and indiscriminate form of fishing that threatens fish populations and other marine resources.
A fisherman, Robert P. Reyes, said he acknowledges the intent of the legislation, but he feels gillnet fishing will be detrimental to the CNMI marine fish population, ecosystem, and may affect tourism.
Rep. Denita K. Yangetmai (D-Saipan) introduced the gillnet fishing bill, House Bill 23-5, which is now before the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, which has incorporated some amendments as requested by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Under the bill, gillnets will be regulated by the Department of Lands and Natural Resources. A Northern Zone and Southern Zone on Saipan will be created where such net fishing method will be permitted.
The Northern Zone may run from Pau Pau Beach south to the Cabrera Commercial Center in Garapan and gillnet fishing will be allowed in odd-numbered months of a calendar year.
Southern Zone may cover the area south of the Cabrera Commercial Center in Garapan to Pak Pak Beach Park in San Antonio and will allow this fishing method in even-numbered months of the calendar year.
During the committee members’ meeting Wednesday, Rep. John Paul Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said that since Yangetmai agrees with incorporating the DFW’s recommendations, they need to call an official committee meeting to adopt this version, H.B. 23-5, HD1, before doing any public hearing on the bill.
Sablan said this is needed so when they call for a public hearing, people already know the changes made in the legislation and they can provide comments on H.B. 23-5, HD1.
Sablan told Camacho that the next move would be for Camacho to call for an official committee meeting toy adopt this House draft version.
In his testimony, Nogis said a legitimate concern was raised in past years regarding the sustainability of fish population and, accordingly, the CNMI established marine sanctuaries to ensure consistent and adequate marine life throughout the islands, which people fully supported. He noted that this bill, at its present form maintains the existence of the marine sanctuaries.
In explaining the method in using gillnets, Nogis said that tekking distinguishes the size of the catch according to the size of the mesh or the eye of the net.
Secondly, he said, it is environmentally friendly as it does not destroy marine habitats because they don’t set the nets on corrals, rock, and sea grass.
Thirdly, Nogis said, they don’t drag the net, which destroys plant and algae.
Cabrera said that in places where gillnet fishing is allowed, they have strict regulations, monitoring, and enforcement system to control properly and safely such activity so that their marine environment will not be threatened.
“It’s enough that we don’t have much budget to operate and manage the CNMI Fish and Wildlife Division properly. Now we are going to expand more it’s operation. [It’s] not making sense with this bill,” said Cabrera in his written testimony.
Since banning tekking and scuba fishing, Reyes said he personally has seen an increase in fish populations that the community continues to enjoy when fishing inside the lagoons using rods and reels, both on boat or by the shore.
“Approving this bill will change things drastically and we will definitely see a lot of abuse if not properly regulated, therefore I oppose it wholeheartedly,” said Reyes as he also cited in his written testimony some issues, including as to who will actually police this law.