The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is receiving $889,984 from the United States Department of Commerce Pacific Islands Regional Office. The sum is for 8 projects working to create sustainable fishing and fish resources. The money will go towards supporting the stability and recovery of fish resources. It will also include creating better opportunities for commercial and recreational fishing. Attention will also be given to cultural activities in the marine environment.
The CNMI is dependent on its imports for 90% of its needs. This includes food from off-island resources. This dependency is made clearer when economic hardships hit the islands. This includes the current rise in fuel prices and shipping costs.
Creating interest in opportunities for sustainable fishing may help increase the food stability of the islands. It may also help develop a new source of income. This includes using abundant marine resources that aren’t currently being used. The CNMI is investing in the development of new fisheries of Monchong and Ika (squid). Monchong and Ika are valuable seafood in Japanese markets. They are an untapped resource for the CNMI.
Not everything will be about creating new avenues of fishing. Included in the new funding will be a Marine Conservation Plan Coordinator. They will oversee projects that use the new funding for two years. Also included in the new funding will be data collectors and fishing assessors. They will help oversee the stability of the fish resources and marine environment.
One of the ways to stabilize fish resources is through marine protected areas (MPA). These areas either limit or prevent fishing within their boundaries. The CNMI currently has 7 MPAs throughout the islands. A recently published UK study showed that in these areas overcaught fish can replenish their numbers. During this period destructive mobile fishing such as bottom-towed fishing was excluded from the areas. Instead, fishing with static gear such as fishing rods were used. Over an 11-year period, the population of overcaught fish rose by 430%.
Another way to improve the marine ecosystem is by upgrading to new equipment. CNMI’s funding includes creating new moorings off the island of Pagan. Traditional mooring with heavy chains can cause damage to habitats. With proper awareness, moorings can also be done conservatively. Conservative moorings use buoyant bungee-like cords to lessen contact with the sea floor. This reduces damage to the sea floor and preserves an important habitat for fish to thrive in.
Working with the marine ecosystem instead of exploiting it is possible. The new funding may also play an important role in the economy and food stability of CNMI.