The curator of the Underwater World Aquarium in Tumon, Guam posted a video in December of trash overtaking a reef offshore from the village of Agat on Guam. The video, first reported by ABC Radio Australia, shows the reef from Michael McCue’s eyes. He dives over what at first is a clean reef and then goes a bit deeper to show the ocean floor littered with thousands of aluminum and food cans, coconut husks, and even a plastic garbage can. According to the ABC Radio Australia news report, the video caused a stir and spurred a cleanup effort that involved the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the Micronesian Divers Association, and UnderWater World. The U.S. military also assisted with the cleanup, filling three large trucks with the trash, one of which contained entirely recyclable materials. A commenter on McCue’s YouTube video said that the area in which the trash was found is offshore of a lowland region of Guam, and most of the trash probably ended up on the reef thanks to typhoons that roll through the region each year.
Guam is a U.S. territory located in the western Pacific. A 2007 NOAA study (found here) put the economic value of Guam’s coral reefs at close to $100 million in tourism dollars, more than $8 million in diving and snorkeling, and close to $4 million in fishery. Contrast this with $8.4 million spent on coastal protection and $2 million in biodiversity, Guam has a lot to work on to keep its reefs in pristine shape.
In related news, Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo announced January 10 that she is reintroducing two resolutions to further protect Guam’s natural resources: House Resolution 69, the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2013, and H.R. 71, the Coral Reef Conservation Act Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2013.
“These bills will help strengthen existing measures to protect our ocean resources and waters around Guam,” Congresswoman Bordallo said in a prepared statement. “Illegal fishing threatens the economic and social infrastructure of fishing communities, and the security of the United States and our allies around the world, by decreasing opportunities for legitimate and conscientious fishermen. The IUU Fishing Enforcement Act would further enhance the enforcement authority of NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard to regulate IUU fishing and prevent the depletion of fishing stocks worldwide.”
“Additionally, I reintroduced the Coral Reef Reauthorization bill because this legislation has stimulated a greater commitment to protect, conserve and restore coral reef resources within jurisdictional waters of the United States. As a result, we now have a much better grasp of the condition of our coral reefs and more focused management capability than at any time in our history.”