Residents Push For Indigenous Fishing Rights On Guam

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Group calls on governor to support indigenous fishermen

By Joy White

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Dec. 13, 2012) – With Guam’s Legislature in session and a new set of senators set to take office in January, one group of fishermen is attempting to call attention to a matter very important to their livelihood.

Yesterday morning, Josephine "Ofing" and Danny "Maga Lahi Pagat" Jackson led a peaceful demonstration at Matapang Beach in Tumon to call attention to the rights of local fishermen.

The Jacksons and other fishermen are pressing for their right as indigenous people of Guam to fish in traditional fishing areas. However, Tumon is a preserve where only rod and reel fishing and cast net (talaya) fishing is allowed.

"This matter has been an issue already for a good three years. I’m only asking the lawmakers to revise Bill 190 and put it on the floor. Let’s put it on the floor and vote for it and let’s do something about it," Danny Jackson stated. "We only want our God-given rights that were taken from us."

Bill 190 was introduced in 2009 to amend current laws regulating indigenous fishing rights. The bill seeks to change current rules and regulations for Marine Preservation Areas to allow for the seasonal harvesting of resources.

The Jacksons expressed the need for the governor to step in and assist indigenous fishermen.

Danny Jackson stated: "I have been trying to make an appointment with the governor for more than two years. No chance to see him. Now I will stand my ground to protect the number one survival of my God-given rights. There’s no such law that says [indigenous fishermen] cannot go fishing."

The fishermen are also concerned that their traditional fishing areas are being overcome by tourists and jet-skis.

Attending in support of the demonstrators was Antonio Aquiningoc, who ran for senator in the recent election. He stated, "Our people grew up hunting and fishing to survive, and to take that away from them is not right. The preservation areas that they have here in Guam – these are areas where I used to fish growing up."

A similar protest was held in July this year. Danny Jackson and a fellow fisherman waded into the water and cast a gill net, which is not allowed in the Tumon Preservation Area.

Department of Agriculture Conservation officers, as well as an officer from the Tumon Police Precinct, were on the scene.

Sgt. Mark Aguon, Agriculture Conservation officer, said law enforcers and the demonstrators respect each others’ stances and were able to talk peacefully, without any conflict or arrests.

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