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By Scott Radway

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (March 4, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---The coral reefs that ring Guam are not healthy.

Just ask any fisherman. Only 20 years ago, there were 70 percent more fish weaving through the coral, ready for the catch.

"If a patient was 70 percent ill, they would be dead," said Gerry Davis, of the Department of Agriculture. "Or in the intensive care unit."

But all hope is not lost. The reef can be resuscitated, the fish will come back, Davis said. All that needs to happen is the community must demand the reef be restored.

"It is not the professionals that need to make this happen. People have got to want to have what they had before," Davis said.

Community project

That's why the Pacific Daily News, along with community environmentalists and business leaders, is launching a nine-month community project to inform people of the reefs' condition, the causes for their decline and the ways to put them back to where they once were.

So residents are armed with knowledge and can make the call if they want to see the reefs brought back from the brink. Davis said the know-how is there, but the public demand and the political will is not.

The project has been named "Man, Land and Sea" by a planning committee. In addition, residents participated in a naming contest with several residents receiving awards for joining the effort.

But the committee chose "Man, Land and Sea" as its title because it best represented what the project was all about, said Edna C. Nery, the project coordinator for the Pacific Daily News.

"Man, Land and Sea" will have a page in the newspaper every Monday dedicated to informing the community about the many issues involving the reefs' health. In addition, monthly community events will be held both at Micronesia Mall and at selected outdoor locations.


The kickoff event will be held Saturday at the mall.

What's at stake if the community doesn't act? The reefs will continue to degrade and the people stand to lose everything from their culture to tourism dollars.

"It's an economic issue and it's a quality of life issue," said Bob Richmond, a marine biology professor at the University of Guam.

Families have long shared their culture on Guam's shores. And Guam draws millions of dollars in revenue from tourists who come to the island to enjoy the coral reefs.

But reef degradation is jeopardizing that.

"It is getting to the point that we are killing the goose that is laying the golden egg," Richmond said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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