Editor's note: This letter has been edited for space and clarity
Buenas yan saluda all! This letter is in regard to Bill 53-35, affectionately known as the scuba spearfishing ban legislation. I would like to identify problems with the measure.
First of all, is the intent – saying a ban of scuba with spear would bring back big fish. First of all, the Legislature uses a Department of Agriculture report generated 10 years ago from probably a 10- to 20-year period prior. In essence, a 30-year-old data set was used.
There's been no new information for the last 10 years from the Department of Agriculture.
I find this generated data highly questionable since I am fully knowledgeable of the data source of the Department of Agriculture. I personally liken this information to be as if I asked the "homeless" under the Hagåtña bridge where I could find a dang good apartment. I use this simple comparison as my explanation for the department's highly questionable conclusion. In over 30 years of collecting unusable fisheries management data, is there an annual report or any reports generated? I suspect none.
Further, I know that the department does not have data to justify the report's conclusion as real-time data is stored by the Federal Science Center and to this date never requested.
Sadly, a video of a free-diver group's harvest went viral, blaming scuba spear. The fact is that it was done by free divers who harvested undersized and egg-bearing lobsters. That incident was online, yet after months there have been no arrests. While the alleged perpetrators appear to be CHamoru, they are not from Guam and definitely not scuba fishers, which lends to the thought of the more destructive fishing occurring by nonscuba efforts from their place of origin where scuba has been banned for years.
Selective agenda-driven information seems to be an operative word.
That this bill was introduced by a freshman senator just a couple of months after assuming office leaves me rather suspicious on the motive.
Scuba spearfishers had 30 individuals 25 years ago and now the group is down to less than six today. These individuals have a documented catch history with the National Fisheries Science Center, unlike the other reef fish harvesters.
Please do not get me wrong, all fishermen have a purpose in life but, from the beginning of history, there are those who fish for the communities and those who fish for themselves or family and now Facebook glory. As a matter of fact, I have yet to see any bragging photos by scuba fishers on any social media post. Either way, the number of all categories of local fishermen is dwindling at a concerning rate.
What I find interesting is the independent research generated by grad student Sonja Bejerana who spent a couple of months documenting the size of harvested fish throughout Micronesia. Her conclusion was that the harvest on Guam had larger fish compared to the rest of Micronesia, which had much smaller fish. ... I surmise we all have different fishing strategies as nearly all other islands harvest within the confines of miles of lagoon while on Guam we really have no choice but to go over the reef. Guam's only two lagoons are either contaminated or a security zone.
Scuba divers have provided for our community and never in such a manner as portrayed in the legislation. Again, I am able to produce 40 years of documented catch history of each reef fish grouping. I guess I was tired of all rhetoric from others' armchair data collection, so, for the last 10 years, the Guam Fishermen's Co-op partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Science Center and developed a complete reef fish species-by-species length and size program. In addition to the data collection, the project expanded to include fish reproduction and age. Our Guam program was expanded to the Commonwealth to the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa fisheries. The program is a comprehensive scientific project, not a copycat, feel-good initiative because the neighbor did it.
This letter is part one in a series about the truth about Guam's fisheries that most especially addresses Bill 53-35 by a person who has lived and walked the path for nearly 50 years. I am a person with direct workings in fishery development and fishery management, both on the international and federal, and even at the draconian local level.
Manuel P. Duenas II, un enteresao Na CHamoru or a concerned CHamoru, is with the Guam Fisherman's Cooperative.