The Marianas Visitors Authority has expressed disappointment over a report of illegal activities at a popular tourist site that was reported last week to a CNMI lawmaker.
A report of Illegal fishing at the Forbidden Island, a protected sanctuary, reached the ears of Rep. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan) last Jan. 16, prompting him to bring the matter to the Division of Fish and Wildlife for prompt investigation.
It was earlier reported that a Korean tour company has been allegedly fishing at the Forbidden Island area several times.
MVA managing director Chris Concepcion told Saipan Tribune that the incident should immediately be addressed by “[sending] a strong signal to everyone that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
“The MVA is aware of reports that a group of visitors were caught fishing at the Forbidden Island Marine Sanctuary. We are deeply disturbed by this occurrence,” he said, when asked about the incident.
Although the MVA is a marketing agency as opposed to a law enforcement agency, MVA fully supports protecting the seven marine sanctuaries of the CNMI, Concepcion said.
“If the violators are found guilty of wrongdoing [MVA has] no objections to having the business license of responsible parties revoked and fined the maximum penalty allowed by law,” he said.
“We cannot permit any leeway on these matters. We must send a strong signal to everyone that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and that there are severe consequences for breaking the law,” he added.
Concepcion said MVA will continue to do its part to help protect the priceless natural resources of the CNMI.
“The MVA will continue to educate our partners in the tourism industry of the importance of preserving marine life and respecting marine sanctuaries in the CNMI,” he said.
The CNMI has seven marine protected areas with five no-take marine reserves, meaning that extraction of sand, fish and coral, as well as the alteration of their habitats is strictly prohibited by several CNMI laws.
The Forbidden Island is one of five no-take marine reserves in the CNMI. The others are the Bird Island marine sanctuary, Managaha marine conservation area, Rota’s Sasanhaya Bay Fish reserve, and Tinian marine reserve, with the last two being the only no-take marine reserves on their respective islands.
Division of Fish and Wildlife is now investigating the matter.