By Lori Lyn Lirio
COMMONWEALTH of Northern Marianas Islands Governor Ralph DLG Torres has declared the year 2018, the International Year of the Reef and the month of April as the Environment Awareness Month to further increase awareness on the importance of the coral reef and the environment.
Torres issued the proclamations in a simple proclamation signing ceremony Wednesday.
As this developed, Coastal Resource Management (CRM) Director Janet Castro said the CNMI is participating in the celebration of the natural resource of the coral reef around the world.
“We want to bring more awareness of the value of the coral reef.”
She said coral reefs protect people from storms and the coastlines from erosion. They are vital habitats for fish and other marine species, support social activities and cultural traditions, and are the cornerstone of the CNMI’s tourism industry.
“Coral Reefs support half a billion people and a quarter of all marine life, making them one of the Earth’s most valuable natural resources, but despite their value, they are profoundly threatened by local stressors such as pollution, unsustainable land use and development, and recreational misuse, as well as the impacts of global climate change and ocean acidification,” the proclamation said.
The CNMI Coral Reef Initiative and the CRM Division will team up to promote the economic, ecological and cultural importance of coral reefs by hosting a number of activities throughout the year.
“A lot of activities we prepared are geared towards the younger generations. We want them to learn more about it,” Castro said.
They will hold more snorkeling activities for children.
“We will bring them to the beach and we will have some biologist there at the beach so that they can explain what are they looking at and how important it is to our ecosystem and how they are operating.”
She added they will also host eco-camp activities, which they do every summer, on Tinian and Rota.
“Coral reefs are part of our environment and we want to bridge the gap and make the connection that what happens on land translates to what is going to the ocean too,” she said.
At the same time on Wednesday, Torres also signed a proclamation designating the month of April as Environment Awareness Month. The proclamation aims to reinforce the people’s responsibility to maintain and protect the environment.
“It calls each of us to do our part to enhance our beautiful islands, and to understand that our actions impact not only ourselves, but the land we live on, the air we breathe, and the oceans surrounding us; all who provide us sustenance and the enjoyment of their beauty. Our environmental resources must be protected and improved to better sustain our island way of life, as well as benefit the CNMI’s important tourism economy. Each of us must do our part daily to protect, and conserve these vital and essential natural resources,” the proclamation states.
Torres noted that it is everyone’s responsibility and obligation to ensure that Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands remain clean with bountiful natural resources for our present and future generations.
He also said the proclamation reinforces the Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution of the CNMI declaring: “each person has the right to a clean and healthful public environment in all areas, including the land, air and water.”