Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Taking New Zealand's environmental lessons to the Pacific

ON a tiny Pacific country halfway between Papua New Guinea and Japan, the words of a Kiwi hero inspired a 17-year-old girl.

Mary Grace Tiglao, from the Mariana Islands, started researching Sir Peter Blake when she earned a place on an environmental forum in New Zealand that continues his legacy.

“I really liked his quotes about leadership, about how the hardest part is to begin, once you’ve begun you are on your way."

“That’s a great quote to live by and I think I’d like to instill it in my own philosophy.”

The Sir Peter Blake Trust’s Youth EnviroLeaders Forum or YELF is in its 13th year, and this is the first time four international students have been invited.

Mary Grace, as well as three from Palau, Australia and New Caledonia joined the 50 Kiwi students for the week-long forum in Nelson where the focus was on pest eradication, ocean health and biodiversity.

It’s Mary Grace’s first time in New Zealand, and just three days into her visit she’s standing on the pristine pest-free Adele Island in the Abel Tasman.

“The weather is beautiful; it’s totally awesome here. The hospitality of the kiwis is top notch.”

She says at home on the Northern Marianas’ largest island Saipan, they do a lot of beach cleanups and she believes preserving the environment is vital to a country where tourism is the main industry.

“If we destroy it our economy’s going to go down, we’ll have less visitors and it destroys the wildlife."

“I also believe we should preserve our environment for posterity, not only for tourism.”

What Mary Grace had seen at the Brook Waimarama sanctuary in Nelson and privately funded Abel Tasman National Park restoration initiative, Project Janszoon, had shown her New Zealand’s proactiveness in conservation, she said.

“I would like the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) to expand their efforts more — enforce and implement stricter rules around littering and the preservation of wildlife.”

Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell says the idea to bring young Pacific leaders into the fold came about at the Our Ocean Conference in Chile last year.

The Trust worked with Pew Charitable Trusts, a U.S.-based NGO, to bring the students to YELF with the aim of connecting young environmental leaders across the Pacific.

“We share the same backyard and the same environmental challenges,” Campbell says.

“We hope they’ll develop amazing friendships, they’ll share great ideas, when they get home they’ll remain in touch with each other.”

She says today’s reality is that environmental issues aren’t isolated to one community or country.

New Zealand is well-placed to help the lesser-developed countries in the Pacific grapple with global environmental issues, she says.

“If we can offer them some opportunities in New Zealand that perhaps they don’t have at home, they can take those ideas back and use that to stimulate discussion, what a great role for New Zealand to play in the Pacific.

“I think Peter would be proud of that.”

Students applying for YELF require a proven record of involvement in environmental issues and who are ready to step up to a challenge.

The Forum included guest speakers Ministry for the Environment chief executive Vicki Robertson, Environment Minister Nick Smith and Blake Leader Sam Johnson.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hawaiian leaders seek expansion of marine conservation area

A group of Native Hawaiian leaders have urged President Barack Obama to expand what’s already one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world.

But the president of the Hawaii Longline Association said Friday the lobbying effort is using Hawaiian culture as an excuse to close off more waters to fishermen.

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is a 140,000-square-mile area of the Pacific where remote islands, atolls, islets and coral reefs serve as habitat for some of the world’s most endangered species.

The region is also a sacred place in the history, culture and cosmology of Native Hawaiians.

“Mr. President, as an island boy from Hawaii, we trust that you understand the significance of the ocean to our islands,” said a letter signed by leaders of the expansion push.

They want Obama to expand the monument to the full 200 nautical-mile limit of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exclusive economic zone while keeping the main Hawaiian islands outside the boundaries.

“While the current boundary of Papahanaumokuakea includes vital habitat for a number of species, it doesn’t fully protect habitat and travel routes for several species including Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, sharks, whales, Black-footed and Laysan albatrosses as well as other species,” reads the letter signed by Department of Hawaiian Homelands Deputy Chairman William Aila, Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe, Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson and others.

If Obama expands the monument, it would be the largest protected area on Earth, they say.

Sean Martin, president of the Hawaii Longline Association, questioned whether there’s been significant cultural activity beyond the current boundary. He believes environmental organizations with deep pockets are using Hawaiian culture to push their agenda at the expense of longline fishermen.

“I think that plays good, sounds good,” he said of highlighting the monument’s cultural significance. “But the reality is that it’s a very important area we work in. … We’re into continuing to support access for U.S. fishermen to fish in U.S. waters.”

The association includes 140 vessels, he said.

Aila said the expansion effort isn’t about pitting fishermen against conservation and culture.

“We’re protecting the fishermen that fish out of Kauai and Niihau,” he said. “Then there’s the other folks that go out a little further into the proposed expansion areas.”

Aila described himself as a “small-boat fisherman” and said protecting the expanded area will allow tuna stocks to rebound, creating more fishing opportunities across the state. “It’s not that longliners can’t fish, they will simply go fish someplace else,” he said.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Expand marine protected area

Expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Monument is a smart, scientifically supported idea.

the ideal marine protected area contains a high diversity of organisms and habitats, is large, remote, and has currents that bring creatures in and carry some of their offspring outward -- Papahanaumokuakea has all these characteristics.

A larger size unquestionably matters, encompassing a great diversity of both life and and habitats and capturing increased numbers of drifting larvae, migratory fish and more.

This safe haven allows fish to get bigger and older.  When a female fish doubles in size, her egg prodcution can increase a thousandfold or more.

About 2 percent of the ocean has been set aside as fully protected marine reserves, far below the 30 percent believed necessary to ensure fish for future generations.

A larger monument means more resource capital in our children's bank accounts from which they can draw the interest sustainably.

Robert H. Richmond, Research professor and director, Kewalo Marine Laboratory

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Monument has cultural value

As a native Hawaiian, I assure you the ocean region beyond Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument retains devout cultural significance for Hawaii ("Native Hawaiian leaders seek expanded marine monument," Star-Advertiser, April 17).

Our ancestors saw the entire archipelago and the vast ocean surrounding it as the framework for our cosmology, and it is accounted for in our oral traditions.

We believe that after passing on, our ancestors return to Po, or the realm of darkness, the region extending beyond the main Hawaiian islands and the limits of the sun's northern advance, beginning at the Tropic of Cancer.

The expansion of protection aligns with the traditional custom to prohibit human presence to minimize the impacts to limited natural resources.  It is imperative that we protect native species found within this ocean region that are inextricably connected to the integrity of our culture.

This expansion will have long lasting benefits to our island heritage and the local and global health of our oceans.

Kalani Quiocho Manoa

Published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on April 22, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

International High School Students Selected for Youth Forum in New Zealand

Marianas High School senior Mary Grace Tiglao has been selected as one of the first international participants of the long-running Sir Peter Blake Youth EnviroLeader’s Forum in New Zealand from April 16-22, 2016.

The forum will take place in Nelson on the South Island, where Tiglao will join 54 other young leaders from around New Zealand and have the opportunity to learn from a number of national science and conservation experts about the major environmental issues facing New Zealand.

“I am very happy and honored to be selected as the first participant from the CNMI,” said Tiglao. “I would like to thank all the organizations and individuals that made this possible, especially Angelo Villagomez of the Pew Foundation and Vicky Benavente. I am excited to visit New Zealand to represent the CNMI, and I look forward to attending and learning from the forum.”

The Sir Peter Blake Trusts is partnering with The Island Voices to bring international young leaders from across the Pacific to attend the Youth EnviroLeader’s Forum for the first time this year. Along with the Northern Marianas, travel for young leaders from Australia, Palau, and New Caledonia are being jointly funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The trust is excited to be branching out to our Pacific neighbors connecting young environmental leaders of the future,” said Sir Peter Blake Trust CEO Shelley Campbell. “Sir Peter used to say, ‘If we can get young people out experiencing the environment they will learn to love it and if they love it they will want to take care of it.’”

Vicky Benavente, chairwoman and Marianas Tourism Education Council, nominated Tiglao to participate in the upcoming forum.

“I first met Mary Grace when she was a high school sophomore, and she competed in the MTEC Essay Contest,” said Benavente. “Since then, Mary Grace has taken on a leadership role in her school, where she can influence her peers on the importance of protecting our environment and inspiring future leaders of the CNMI for a better tomorrow.”

Tiglao is the commander of the JROTC Dolphin Battalion and an officer of the National Honor Society. She previously attended Saipan Community School and Mt. Carmel School. Last year, she attended the Junior Statesmen of America at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a full scholarship award from the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has won several essay contests on island, including the MTEC essay contest in 2013. She also plays the ukulele and piano.

The Island Voices are artists, educators, fishermen, and leaders dedicated to linking traditional values into modern decision making and advocates for clean and healthy oceans and islands. They are advisors to the Pew Charitable Trusts Global Ocean Legacy Campaign.

Sir Peter Blake was one of the world’s best sailors who wanted to raise people’s awareness about need to care for our oceans and marine environments. The Sir Peter Blake Trust exists to continue his legacy to inspire and mobilize the next generation of leaders, adventurers, and environmentalists.

MTEC was formed in 2002 by the Marianas Visitors Authority to heighten the community’s awareness of the importance of tourism to the well-being of the people of the CNMI. MTEC’s primary focus is to foster community understanding and support of the CNMI’s visitor industry and to educate the general public, especially school students, about the value, social benefits, and economic contributions made to the community by the visitor industry.