Guam residents encouraged to be kind to unique and endangered marine life

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Posted on Apr 22 2019

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration special agent Charles Raterman, Guam customs officer Ike Reyes, NOAA enforcement officer John Evangelista, (former) Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas Natural Resources specialist Tammy Summers, and Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources biologist C.J. Cayanan display some of the messaging used to educate the public about the harm caused by feeding or disturbing marine life in their natural habitat. (NAVFAC MARIANAS PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE)

ASAN, Guam—Federal and local environmental experts are raising awareness about proper care and appropriate safety precautions around marine animals in Guam’s waters.

“All marine life, including sea turtles, are to be protected,” said Naval Base Guam Environmental Program Director Ed Moon. “We are encouraging residents to appreciate our marine animals from a safe distance and avoid feeding them.” According to Moon, while the practice of feeding sea turtles may seem harmless, and even helpful, it can have a host of negative consequences, including physical harm to those doing the feeding.

As part of the Navy’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship, NAVFAC Marianas and Naval Base Guam environmental experts teamed with representatives of other concerned agencies – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Guam Customs and Quarantine, and Guam Division of Wildlife and Aquatic Resources to help raise awareness through youth presentations and group discussions. The team presented on April 4 at the Naval Base Guam Teen Center with approximately 50 island students in attendance.

The environmentalists said for safety reasons everyone should do their part to avoid disturbing and feeding these unique and endangered aquatic animals.

“Hawksbill turtles, in particular, can lose their fear of humans after a while,” Moon said. “They may be friendly when people start to feed them, but then they can become aggressive and might even bite someone.”

If they are fed regularly by humans, they may become dependent on this food source and when it stops marine life face malnourishment. Additionally, unfamiliar or processed food may not provide the nutrients the animals need, also leading to malnutrition or other health problems. Human food may even be toxic for the sea animals. Furthermore, sea animals can become entangled in plastic wrappers, bags, can holders and other containers that accompany human food, causing suffocation or hindering mobility and the ability to feed and protect themselves.

Experts warn that it is illegal under the Endangered Species Act to feed or otherwise disturb sea turtles or other endangered sea life in their natural habitat. Anyone attempting to do so may face penalties or legal action.

“There are many different and amazing animals in the ocean,” said Chuck Raterman, special agent with NOAA. “Enjoy them from a distance and help keep Guam the wonderful place it is.” (USN)

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