Wespac awards NMI $250K to boost fishing industry

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From left, Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Antonio T. Benavente, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council member John Gourley, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and council executive director Kitty M. Simonds at the 174th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council held at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan in Garapan. (Bea Cabrera)

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council gave the CNMI a check for $250,000 during its 174th meeting yesterday at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan in Garapan.

The fund aims to implement CNMI Fisheries training and demonstration programs and the implementation of mandatory catch reporting requirements.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the award will give the CNMI an excellent opportunity to promote sustainable management of local marine resources.

“This funding also allows us to provide new programs with the assistance of the council such as the purchase of a bottom-fishing vessel, accompanied by technical and hands-on assistance to help our fishermen in class as well as in the water,” he added.

Part of the money will be used plan to buy an ice machine for local fishermen that will be used to sustain and preserve the quality of the fish. “We want to put value on our fish the right way but before we can do that, we have to preserve it the right way as well,” said Torres.

According to Wespac executive director Kitty M. Simonds, their mission is to promote sustainable fisheries and fisheries development in the territories and Hawaii.

A part of the award will go to the development and implementation of a new “mandatory catch reporting.” This is similar to logbook keeping wherein fish harvesters are required to record information about their catch and submit this data to the government agencies concerned.

Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Antonio T. Benavente said his office has completed the regulations for mandatory reporting and has submitted them to the Attorney General’s Office for review.

“The fishermen have a responsibility to report as the government needs information in order to develop proper management and regulation of fisheries. If they don’t have the information it will be hard to keep track and get the proper data. We need the help of fishermen to help the future of sustainable fisheries here,” he said.

“We want to prevent the catching of small fishes,” he added.

Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), a former DLNR secretary and council member, said that the CNMI government has had many projects over the years that have been funded through the council.

“The $250,000 is just a part of this and we look forward to continuing this funding stream for fisheries development and management in the Commonwealth.”

“The projects that have been completed through the council assistance include the Garapan Fishing Base parking lot, improvements to the CNMI DLNR Fisheries statistics data base, community projects, Garapan Fishing Base Improvements Environmental Review and Engineering Plan, Garapan Fishing Base planned improvements such as shoreline revetment, floating docks, maintenance dredging, aids to navigation, solar parking lot lights and vending ice machine,” he added.

Torres said that training for fishermen is not meant for commercial fishery, like the huge fishing industry of the Federated States of Micronesia.

“We don’t want to compete with them in that long-line type of fishing…The goal today is to assist our fishermen, enhance the fishing program, promote bottom fishing here, and sustain our local demands.”

“This government wants to make sure that the fishing industry will not only stand today but also for the generations to come…We have something that no other places have—our beautiful ocean and the resources. We want to harness and use those but at the same time to make sure that we preserve that as well,” he added.

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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