Saipan students push against marine debris

Posted on Feb 08 2019

Joan Bahillo and her students from Hopwood Middle School pose after tagging a storm drain. (Contributed photo)

The Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance held an orientation workshop for the 5th Annual “Schools for Environmental Conservation” program with several of Saipan’s public and private middle school students on Feb. 2, 2019.

Funded through the Department of the Interior, SFEC was designed by MINA for the active engagement of students in educational and field activities while focusing on a specific environmental issue.

Through the SFEC program, teachers and students develop a Conservation Action Plan wherein they design a project, develop strategies and measures, implement those strategies, then use those results to adapt and improve on future projects.

Participating schools in this year’s program are Mount Carmel School, Dandan Middle School, Hopwood Middle School, and Tanapag Middle School, totaling 10 teachers and 36 students.

Coming on the heels of topics such as marine protected areas, climate change, watersheds, and coral reefs, this year’s theme is “Learning About and Actively Addressing Marine Debris in the CNMI.”

The subject of marine debris calls for more attention, as waste from other countries washes up on local beaches.

“Marine debris is not just a local problem. It is a global problem and it is an everyday problem,” said Mallory Muna of the Division of Coastal Resources Management under the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, one of the presenters at the orientation workshop.

Her colleague, Colleen Flores, reported that in last year’s International Coastal Cleanup, the CNMI had “over 700 local volunteers [who] removed over 5,500 lbs of trash from numerous locations across Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.”

With this year’s theme addressing marine debris, the students had a storm drain tagging activity for the afternoon portion of the workshop.

The students applied stickers above the storm drains along Coral Tree Avenue, the road between Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan and Paseo de Marianas, with markers in English, Chinese, and Korean languages, which say “Do Not Dump…Drains to Ocean.”

As a follow-up to the students’ efforts, MINA’s Tasi Watch Community Rangers are currently partnering up with BECQ to complete the installation of additional markers for the rest of the storm drains in Garapan.

Muña encouraged all the workshop participants to do their part: “We hope to help increase public awareness that what enters the storm drains, enters the ocean. As individuals, we can all help by reducing single-use disposable containers, skipping the straw, using reusable bags, minimizing chemical use, planting trees, and or volunteering.”

Jolly Ann Cruz, SFEC program manager, echoed that: “With MINA’s mission of ‘Empowering Communities for Conservation,’ we continue to address the issue of marine debris prevention through outreach in the schools, at community events and through the Adopt-A-Bin program where businesses sponsor recycling bins at popular beach sites.”

MINA would like to thank the Department of Public Works for their collaboration on this project, whose crew ensured that the storm drains were cleaned out and safe for the students’ hands-on activity. MINA also thanks Pacific Islands Club Saipan, Tasi Tours and Transportation, and the presenters at the workshop: Mallory Muña and Colleen Flores (DCRM), Michelle Kautz (MINA), David Benavente (DCRM), Sowm Kaipat (MINA), Julius Reyes (DCRM), Jihan Younis (DCRM), Rodney Camacho (DCRM), and Brooke Nevitt, former executive director of MINA and volunteer, who, together with Elizabeth Furey, was one of the originators of the SFEC program.

Cruz concluded the workshop by sharing something that the Dalai Lama once said, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

To learn more about MINA’s Schools for Environmental Conservation program, visit MINA’s Facebook page, email MINA at, or call us at 233-7333 (REEF). (PR)

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