GUAM NATIVE RIGHTS GROUP WANTS FISHING ACCESS

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Traditional subsistence fishing clashes with marine preserves

By Tiffany Sukola

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, July 14, 2009) – The Taotaomona Native Rights Group is preparing to go up against the Guam Legislature later this month in an effort to amend a public law relating to the native fishing rights of the Chamoru people.

On May 24, the group submitted a new set of rules and regulations to legislators, specifically regarding indigenous fishing rights.

According to Trini Torres, a member of the native rights group, the new set of rules stems from years of frustration over the Department of Agriculture’s current regulations governing the island’s marine preserves.

Torres said that many local residents are being arrested for fishing in these areas, even though their families have been fishing there for generations.

"Fishing has been the subsistence for the Chamoru people for thousands of years now," said Torres. "Being told when and where we can fish is an injustice to our people."

Torres added that although the current law was established to protect Guam’s waters from over-fishing, many Chamoru fisherman and their families only fish to help put food on the table.

"When I was growing up, if we didn’t have enough food, we would go fishing," said Torres, commenting on the fact that many people cannot afford to buy food in today’s rough economy and must look elsewhere to supplement their food supply.

Torres compared the group’s struggle with the struggle of Native Americans against the U.S. government over similar indigenous rights issues. Like the

Native Americans who eventually won their rights back from the government, Torres hopes that legislators will realize that native rights should trump federal regulations.

The organization hopes to raise public awareness through series of public meetings prior to the public hearing on amending the current law, which is scheduled for July 24.

Torres urges residents to attend these meetings to voice their opinion.

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