I worked 15 years as a coordinator for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council before going back to the private sector in 2017. I was unable to attend the Bill 53-35 public hearing on Nov. 13, otherwise, I would have been there to testify against this latest salvo against the fishing community. I had the luck to watch it on YouTube days later.
I have come to the conclusion that the scuba spearfishing ban was ill-conceived, poorly researched and those supporting it may be doing so not because it is a good bill, but may be indoctrinated by the global political agenda and/or maybe just to be in opposition to Manny Duenas. It seemed he was as much a target.
Those opposing Duenas reminded me of a spearfisherman who hated Manny with a passion – and probably still does. Listening to the story, I found out that the root of the issue was that this person went to sell fish to the Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association and Duenas had rejected his fish because they were too small for the species. Hell hath no fury like a fisherman who had his fish rejected.
The Co-Op has a policy to promote sustainable fisheries and the sale of healthy and safe seafood. It promotes CHamoru cultural values and traditional catch sizes set for different species to ensure that fish have an opportunity to spawn. The Guam Department of Agriculture, Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, refuses to embrace CHamoru cultural values and traditional catch sizes. Some DAWR biologists are freshwater scientists from the mainland and cannot or refuse to comprehend the concept of CHamoru cultural knowledge and conservation values. Instead, they promote posters from subtropical Hawaii with a quarter of fish species that exist in Guam’s tropical waters. They believe in the “one size fits all” approach to management.
The Co-Op has extensively spent resources educating the community on how to properly care for freshly caught fish to ensure quality product to the end user. Fish that are not properly cared for are rejected.
During the hearing, free-dive fishers blamed the scuba spearfishers of “raping” the resource. It's such a strong word to use considering that scuba fishers had little to do with the state of affairs on the coral reef. The near-shore habitat has been compromised by land-use activities that have deposited tons of sediment, etc. One only has to venture out to the coast after a heavy rain to observe plumes of muddy water invading the precious resource. Habitat degradation – runoff, sedimentation, pollution – is the culprit and the government of Guam agencies have failed to address it, instead opting to adopt the global political agenda. We need real solutions to local problems, not political science.
I recommend that everyone read the July 17, 2008 “Guam Fisheries Community Report" to the Legislature prepared by the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association. Be enlightened by the issues that affect the livelihood and existence of our fishing community.
John S. Calvo is a resident of Tamuning.