‘Our sanctuaries are being raped’

Kelly Tenorio, left, and Adriana Cotero share their experiences during their trip to the Northern Islands last April during the Rotary Club of Saipan weekly meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

Eyewitnesses have made allegations that the sanctuaries within the Marianas archipelago have been trespassed and tampered with, illegally.

The three northernmost islands in the Marianas archipelago—Farallon de Pajaros (Uracas), Maug, and Asuncion—were all included in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument that was established by President George Bush on Jan. 6, 2009. The monument’s intent was to ensure protection of over 95,000 square miles of seafloor and waters in the Mariana Archipelago.

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries was mandated and promised to conduct educational and research programs, as well as resource protection, but they allegedly have not.

During the Rotary Club of Saipan’s weekly meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency’s Giovanni’s restaurant, Kelly Tenorio, Northern Islands Mayor’s Office coordinator and Northern Islands resident, informed Rotarians about the happenings that Northern Islanders have spotted in the so- called “protected sanctuaries.”

“Promises were made when they made that monument, when they took it away…I don’t know exactly who the monument people are, but there were a lot of promises made that they would keep those islands safe and patrolled and I cant say that we’ve ever seen that and we really need it,” she said.

Tenorio said that not only have Northern Islanders spotted ships, but they have also uncovered large net remnants in the sanctuary waters.

“In the monument areas which is the end of the [Mariana] chain…there are ships passing all the time and we find nets in the water that they just cut off sometimes when their nets are all tangled, they just cut them off …but ships come out there all the time and I know the Coast Guard knows this and they do all they can to help us with that but it is such a big space,” she said.

According to Tenorio, Northern Island sanctuaries are constantly being raped and it should be a concern of all those within the Mariana archipelago.

“‘I’m not blaming anybody, I’m just saying that it is everybody’s job to patrol our islands and to keep them safe because they are being raped as we speak and we are concerned about it…these islands belong to everybody and we all have to be stewards so I would like them to know that they can contact our office,” she said.

In addition, Tenorio said that ships from Guam have been making trips to the Northern Islands, too, which is a huge concern because these ships could carry invasive species that could attack the purity of the Northern Islands.

“That’s fine, we want to share the islands, but we want to make sure that the boats coming in are free of invasive species. As you know the rhino beetles and many other things that we don’t want getting up there…we have a process here that they have to check in with us first. Not just the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office, but Division of Fish and Wildlife and all that,” she said.

Tenorio said that she would just like to inform Northern Island visitors that they are welcome up there, but they need to check with the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office first to ensure that the boats that are coming in are safe.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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