Johnny “Atulai” Taitano just wants to fish.
In the last 60 years, he’s been arrested officially and unofficially 38 times, Taitano said. On Thursday, Taitano had yet another run-in with Port Authority of Guam police who contend his net fishing is in violation of Port policies that ban net fishing in the Hagåtña boat basin.
“They’re confiscating the fish, the nets, the boats. It’s sad. I’m a fisherman,” Taitano said.
While out catching fish that he was to sell to a local restaurant, Taitano said, Port Police called his group of fishermen back to shore. On land, he cringed as his nets were stripped of thousands of fish – an estimated 700 pounds of the catch.
Port Police were seen carrying his nets off a boat, still with numerous fish.
“We’re crying on the inside,” Taitano told The Guam Daily Post.
Taitano said he believes he has every right to fish in the boat basin as a 2013 memorandum from the Department of Agriculture to the Port general manager identified a designated area for net fishing. He showed his copy of the memo, which he carried with him.
“There was no expiration date,” he said of the memo.
With his experience Thursday, he said PAG General Manager Joanne Brown may have put an expiration date on his document, Taitano added.
The Port implemented a ban on net fishing in the boat basin in 2017 and efforts were supposed to be made to establish an interagency agreement to allow net fishing in certain areas.
Taitano said he’s still waiting for that agreement and for a solution that he said was promised by elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio and Sen. Wil Castro.
“These guys are all talk,” Taitano said. “The politicians, they only come and push and shove when their a-- is in the corner, not mine.”
He said he has been willing to sit down and reach an agreement with Port management but questions why he should do that.
“I’m a fisherman. I’m not a politician,” Taitano said. “Leave the old man alone. I’m not doing drugs. I’m not committing pedophile activities like the priests, but I’ve been arrested, incarcerated, booked and mugged. None of those guys have.”
For retirees such as himself and other members of his crew, fishing isn’t about profits; it’s a way to fill their days and feed their friends.
“The season is coming and going and we’re going to lose it again,” he said. “We lost it last season because promises never came to light.”