Monday, September 25, 2017

Scientists want to know more about CNMI ocean protections

Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, September 25, 2017 – As islanders, we are very appreciative of the ocean. We enjoy seafood, boating, swimming and all the other benefits our oceans provide. But how many of us really know about marine protected areas around the CNMI? Or about our very own Mariana Trench Monument, a marine protected area that is internationally recognized? Well a scientist from England, Danny Morris, also wanted to learn about our oceans, and he spent this past July and August on Saipan gathering data on this topic.

Danny is working towards his master’s degree at the University of York in England under the guidance Dr. Callum Roberts and Dr. Julie Hawkins, leading researchers in the field of ocean sciences. These scientists study the ocean and marine life all over the world. Dr. Roberts is an expert on coral reef biology and he also studies the relationship between humans and marine ecosystems. While Dr. Hawkins researches the environmental benefits of marine protected areas. Since the Mariana Trench Monument here in the CNMI is one of the world’s most unique marine protected areas, having animals that are not found anywhere else, Danny wanted to learn how we felt about ocean protection.

According to Danny, the Mariana Trench Marine Monument is very special and it was the CNMI’s conservation ethic that drew him to Saipan to conduct his research.

“Having a highly diverse ecosystem with many species in the deep waters that are yet to be discovered by scientists is so unique,” he explained. “And I wanted to see some of that for myself.”

“The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument was declared over 8-years ago, and was one of the first very large marine protected areas on the planet,” he continued. “I wanted to come learn about how that is viewed in the community.”

While Danny was on Saipan, he interviewed over 200 U.S. citizens to gain a better understanding of their view of marine protected areas around the Northern Mariana Islands. He spoke mainly to Chamorros, Carolinians, Filipinos, and other Micronesian ethnicities. People who were not citizens were not allowed to be surveyed.

He spent time in public places speaking to passersby, maybe you were able to speak with him and be interviewed for his scientific survey? He asked general questions about ocean protection, and more specific questions on marine protected areas and the Mariana Trench Marine Monument.

Danny’s work on the island is significant as ocean protection is important for maintaining our community and safeguarding our cultural legacy. According to scientists, at least 30 percent of the world’s ocean must be protected. While the Mariana Trench Monument seems to be a large protected area it is actually less than 5 percent of US waters. Scientists say that marine protected areas like the monument provides sanctuary to many marine animals so they can reproduce and move to other areas. They also say that marine protected areas are important to safeguard fragile animals like corals, and to protect species that are found nowhere else.

Many were pleased that Danny was able to conduct research here. Ignacio V. Cabrera, Chairman of the Friends of the Monument (FOM) said that he was happy to hear from Danny.

“It made me smile to know that these young scientists are taking an interest in what we have here,” Ike added. When not conducting his surveys, Danny spent time with various families in the community. Auntie Chailang Palacios and Uncle Bob Power hosted Danny at their home for several weeks.

“He’s a wonderful and polite young man,” said Chailang. “It was great fun for us to have him with us”, she added. While staying there, he was introduced to a variety of people including Agnes McPhetres, a co-founding chair of the FOM. Auntie Agnes was also delighted that Danny was here to study.

Danny is now home in England finishing his thesis to complete his Masters of Science degree in Marine Environmental Management. We expect to learn more about the results of Danny’s study in the coming weeks.

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