Fishermen none too pleased with SCUBA bill - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Fishermen none too pleased with SCUBA bill

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - SCUBA spearfishing is against the law in much of the world, including parts of the Marianas.  But some local fishermen are not very happy about a new bill that could make the act illegal off Guam's waters. 

One group of fishermen at the Guam Fisherman's Co-Op says a recent bill introduced by Senator B.J. Cruz is discriminatory.  "To us as a group, we think it's an attack on fishing here on Guam," stated Paul Villanueva.  The bill would outlaw spearfishing using SCUBA apparatus, with Villanueva continuing to say, "Basically, I fish for sustenance, my family, parties sometimes I can use the extra money."

The measure is necessary, according to the bill, in order to protect certain species of fish.  "I think the issue here what species are more susceptible to harvest the bumphead and humphead they are both highly vulnerable to exploitation," noted Dr. Terry Donaldson, an associate professor of ichthyology at the University of Guam's world renowned Marine Lab.  He says Guam doesn't claim to support or oppose the bill, but does say certain types of fish should not be harvested.  "Regardless of the method, there are so few left in Guam's waters that any exploitation of them would drive them to local exploitation."

The fishermen KUAM News spoke with say they would agree to regulations against harvesting certain types of fish, but don't think SCUBA spearfishing is at the root of the problem.  Fisherman Cecil Suba said, "If the preserves are working, then why are they attacking the fishermen? It not the fishermen that are at fault, there are greater causes such as which is pollution?"

Not only do these fishermen say the bill would cut into their livelihood, one man we spoke with said he nearly drowned free-diving before he learned to dive with SCUBA gear.  "It's a lot safer method of fishing," the man said, not wishing to state his name.

They say they are being unfairly targeted and that more research is needed before any laws should be changed, with Villanueva adding, "Do they have any data or scientific proof to show fisherman are the contributing factor to the decline of fish? So why are we the scapegoats?"

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