Indigenous Guam Fishermen Risk Of Drowning More Than Doubled After Enforcement Of MPAs

In 1997, five marine preserve areas (MPAs) were established on Guam, which, in part, resulted in the loss of accessible fishing grounds for fishermen who traditionally fished inshore. According to fishermen, MPAs have forced them out of traditional fishing grounds, prevented them from teaching their younger generation how to fish safely, and adversely affected the future of their local culture. As a result of fishing restrictions enforced in the MPAs at Tumon Bay, Piti Bomb Holes, Sasa Bay, Achang Reef Flat, and Pati Point by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a serious increase in fishing hazards for indigenous Chamorro fishermen.

“Specifically, the authors noted that after MPAs were enacted in 2001, the risk of drowning for Chamorro fishermen more than doubled. While MPAs led to a sharp decrease in the risk of drowning among non-Chamorro fishermen, they also saw a sharp decline in drowning rates among non-Chamorro fishermen.

According to NIOSH’s “The Impact of Marine Preserve Areas on the Safety of Fishermen on Guam,” Chamorro fishermen drowned more on the East Coast (in more dangerous waters) between 1986 and 2000 than anywhere else on the planet.

According to the report, Guam residents fished mainly on the Western and Southern coasts before MPAs were established. The resource was primarily used by non-Chamorro fishermen for recreation, while Chamorro fishermen lived off it. Traditionally, the West Coast and Southern tip of the island were popular and traditional fishing grounds, which were restricted as MPAs were established and enforced. Due to the lack of accessible, safe fishing areas, it is likely that non-Chamorro recreational fishermen reduced their activities. Also, Chamorro subsistence fishermen began to fish more heavily on the East Coast (windward side of the island). … This increased exposure resulted in greater drowning risks.”

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