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Heavy use threatens marine environment

By Dionesis Tamondong • HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 14, 2010) – There could be new restrictions on canoe paddling, windsurfing, snorkeling and other recreational and commercial activities in Tumon Bay in an effort to control adverse impacts to that marine preserve.

Any new restrictions will ultimately be up to the Department of Agriculture, with final approval from the Legislature, said Agriculture Director Joseph Torres.

But if additional limitations are to be put in place, Agriculture officials must first prove that the activities they want restricted are actually harming the fragile ecosystem of the marine preserves, said Edwin Cruz, president of Isa Sports Club. His company rents snorkels, kayaks and other recreational equipment near the northern end of Tumon Bay.

"I have yet to see data on exactly how these activities are harming the coral and the sea life," he said at his rental stand recently. "Instead, they should be doing more to address runoff and litter, which is really hurting the bay."

For more than a year the Agriculture Department and its contractor, PCR Environmental, have been holding community meetings and collecting data and public comments on the proposed range of restrictions.

On one end, there could be no changes to the recreational and commercial activities allowed at the Tumon Bay and Piti Bomb Holes marine preserves. On the other end, all activities -- from swimming and snorkeling to kite boarding and kayaking -- could be prohibited.

"At this point, nothing is set in stone. We are still accepting public comments," Torres said. "Ultimately, it will be up to the department to decide how to best manage the marine preserves and find a balance with all these human activities."

The Guam Legislature passed a law in 1997 establishing five marine preserves to protect natural resources and to grow the fish stock in these areas. The preserves went into effect in 2001, with restrictions on what activities are allowed.

In 2004, lawmakers passed another law giving the agriculture department the authority to further regulate activities in these areas.

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