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CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE November 14, 2001


Congressman Robert A. Underwood, in his capacity as ranking member of the House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, was invited today to share his views with the newly created Commission on Ocean Policy.

"The future work of this new commission is vitally important in our efforts to develop a cogent and comprehensive ocean policy that addresses the realities and challenges of the 21st Century. This is a major breakthrough in national policymaking," the Congressman said, adding that he was pleased with the opportunity to offer his perspectives as a Pacific islander.

In Guam, as in many other coastal areas of the United States, the marine environment has framed and shaped our culture, our economy and our way of life."

Congressman Underwood offered five recommendations:

1. Investigate innovative governance strategies on all scales;

2. Consider and incorporate indigenous cultures and traditions;

3. Avoid underestimating the presence or scope of emerging environmental threats;

4. Re-evaluate the concept of national security; and

5. Consolidate statutory authorities to reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies.

"Local governments, like the Government of Guam, and other jurisdictions around the country have a lot of in-depth knowledge about their own area and should be consulted as part of the process. This should not be a top-down federal policy," the Congressman said.

The incorporation and consideration of the practices and traditions of indigenous cultures in a national policy is important, he added.

"This is especially critical for our area. So much of our identity and our essence as a people is tied up with the ocean and its resources. I wanted to make sure that the kinds of knowledge and practices which the Chamorro people and other indigenous peoples have followed for centuries becomes part of any national ocean policy."

Underestimating emerging environmental threat should be avoided at all cost, the Congressman said.

"Those of us who live in Guam fully understand the importance of issues such as PCB in the water and silt runoff, which is killing the coral reefs. The continual stress that we put our ocean resources have many implications in terms of our economy, our tourism, as well as our own enjoyment of ocean and coastal resources."

In terms of national security, submarines and the use of sounding machines to track other submarines have an impact on marine mammals and need to be examined, Underwood said, as do the multitude of federal laws and the different agencies which administer and enforce them.

"The Department of Interior, NOAA in the Department of Commerce, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the National Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Marine Fisheries Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and potential growth industries like aquaculture and deep sea-bed mining, parceled out in so many parts of the federal structure in a way that is not always mindful of local needs and conditions -- when added all together, we see the need for a comprehensive and coherent policy which currently doesn't exist," Underwood said. "My plea is that, as we try to coordinate, we don't put the local communities out of focus."

The Commission on Ocean Policy was established by P.L. 106-256, the Oceans Act of 2000, which grew out of the Oceans Conference in Monterrey, California, in 1998.

"I was happy to have participated not only in the formation of the law, but also in the initial meetings of the Commission," the Congressman said.

"Many of the economic resources that will lead to the diversification of our economy can be found in the ocean, and I wanted to use my leadership position in the Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee to make sure that we're in on the ground floor, to make sure that Guam is included."

For additional information, contact: Cathy Gault at 671-477-4272

Washington office: 2418 Rayburn Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Tel: 202-225-1188 Fax: 202-226-0341 Email: 

Guam office: 120 Fr. Duenas Ave., Ste 107 Hagatna, GU 96932 Tel: 671-477-4272 Fax: 671-477-2587

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