Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Spotted Eagle Ray & The Shark

(Photo courtesy of Marine Life Photographer Andy Murch)

"Spotted Eagle Ray City" is a special place in our CNMI waters loved by divers world over for they get to see a community of these beautiful creatures living together in a colony. This, I am told, is unique only to the CNMI.

Sadly, the divers have noticed a decline in the population of these Spotted Eagle Rays due to commercial fishing. The divers sounded the alarm and legislation was introduced and passed in the Senate to ban the capture of these Spotted Eagle Rays. The legislation is now pending in the House Natural Resources Committee, of which I am the vice chair.

My office arranged a meeting yesterday between the Natural Resources Committee, Fish & Wild Life and Mike Tripp, President of the newly formed Marianas Divers Association. Our meeting was very productive in making some amendments to the legislation in order to give more teeth to the proposed law.

(Photo courtesy of Marine Life Photographer Andy Murch)

The other part of the legislation was the prohibition against shark-feeding in the CNMI unless a permit is obtained from Fish & Wild Life. The Fish & Wild Life Division currenty does not issue such a permit. Something about shark feeding bothered me enough to motion to send this legislation to the House Natural Resources Committee for further review.

We had some public policy debate as to whether to even allow such a thing. Some of you folks may have heard that a certain individual ended up jeopardizing the safety of many divers and swimmers by feeding sharks at the Grotto. Most of you probably heard that the authorities did not take this matter lying down and that the alleged perpretrator got in some hot waters with the authorities.

Well, upon closer scrutiny, I was relieved to find out that this legislation is intended to put a stop to this feeding of sharks here in the CNMI UNTIL the Fish & Wild Life Division has had a chance to review this and determine whether this activity can be accommodated here in the CNMI. Only upon a determination that the risks do not outweigh safety would a permit be granted. In the meantime, we've beefed up the enforcement and funding sections.

So, remember, leave the Spotted Eagle Rays and Sharks alone!

And a huge thanks to all who attended the meeting and to Ruth Tighe for her comments on the legislation.

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