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Over 350 participate in Pacific Islands Conference

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It was a busy week for over 350 environmental specialists and advocates from across the Pacific as they closed out day three of the 27th Pacific Islands Environment Conference held at the Hyatt this week. It was the first time retired U.S. Coast Guard captain William Marhoffer participated in a Pacific Islands Conference.

"I'm very impressed," he said. "I'm just totally blown away by the broad spectrum of environmental sustainability topics that have been addressed. We've heard about using technology to reduce our environmental footprint while allowing us to enjoy our air conditioning. We learned about efforts to reduce invasive species like the dreaded brown tree snake and restore some of our endemic species here in the Pacific Islands. We've learned about sustainability initiatives to reduce the use of plastic bags, better use of our limited public utilities."

Marhoffer, who's also a district incident management and preparedness advisor and today's closing keynote speaker says he caught a glimpse of Guam from above earlier this week - a reminder of why work to protect the environment is so important. "It was a beautiful, clear evening it was the best view of the island from the air that I've ever had and it really shows this beautiful, lush green island surrounded by the blue Pacific. But it gives you the sense of how small and how isolated it is and when you have islands like Guam so small and so isolated, you really get a sense for how fragile, for how vulnerable they are 1659 that's what this conference is all about," he said.

Taking notes this week, Guam EPA spokesperson Tammy Jo Anderson Taft says Guam could easily implement some of the success stories our island neighbors shared, specifically American Samoa's use of dry litter on piggeries. "It was a really great presentation because it talked about people who got sick from being in rivers directly from pig waste basically and they talked about when they started to do outreach and using a different method for piggeries, which is dry litter systems that it significantly reduced the amount of bacteria that was in the river," she said.

Meanwhile, political status was also a hot topic at this week's conference. Taft said, "That is of interest because Guam and all of the territories there's always a struggle between regulations and where we stand. It was a really interesting presentation because it's an issue the affects all of our Pacific islands here; we have a little different status than the states and the constitution applies a little bit differently."

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