Fishermen seek change in range complex
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The island's fishermen attended a meeting on Tuesday night to express their concerns with the Navy's plans for the Marianas Islands Training and Testing Area and Range Complex. And that community isn't happy about the military's plans to further cut into their livelihoods.
Fishermen like John Eads aren't happy with the military's plans to put a training and testing range complex right in the middle of his favorite fishing spot. "You guys are out of hand," he proclaimed. "You're asking from something that you don't need and you're ruining our livelihood, potentially, if you wish."
Rob Ross added, "Why do you have to choose places like the Southern Banks? You got the entire Pacific Ocean at your disposal to do your testing of all your weapons - why do you have to choose the place where we fish?" He and others attended last night's meeting with the Navy's consultant, HDR Environmental, to discuss their concerns with the military's decision to choose popular fishing areas for training and testing.
HDR Environmental consultant Edward Lynch said, "That 'Whisky' area has been around for quite a long time and the Navy trains within the Marianas Island Range Complex...training is directly related to where our forces are and I'm sure you've heard this more than once that Guam is 'the point of the spear.'"
But it was obvious fishermen weren't taking the bait. Eads stated, "There's no reason for this conflict. I don't care of we're 'the point of the spear' or whatever the hell you said. It's just asking for something because it's always been there it doesn't need to be there." He also noted, "We don't mind if you guys bomb the crap out of Farallon De Medinilla but leave the Southern Banks alone, leave the wedge of the Northern Banks alone, and we don't care if you take the rest."
The range complex, as currently proposed, would close off four shoreline areas and up to 200 miles out into international waters and that's in addition to the 14,000 square miles of the fishing grounds that are already closed off to fishermen. They've asked that officials move the area 30 miles east away from the shallow points where they currently fish.
Colonel Dr. Tom Poole (U.S. Army Ret.) says they understand the military's need to train near Guam, noting. "Most of the water around Guam is essentially unfishable because it's too deep. And I don't know the math on it, but maybe 2% or 3% of the areas around Guam, and that 2% or 3% is what you choose to make a training area."
Lynch said he couldn't make any promises, but would take the fisherman's proposal to move the training and testing area 30 miles east back to the Navy for their consideration. "I can't sit here and tell you there won't be a problem with 30 miles. We're gonna go back and ask that question. We told you we would be absolutely honest with you. I don't' have the answers. I'm here to find out if 30 miles is what you guys want me to ask then that's what we're going to ask can we move it 30 miles," he said.