Posted by: reefrescue | January 12, 2011

Navy coral dredging plan prompts outcry

By Audrey McAvoy – The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jan 10, 2011 12:39:44 EST

HONOLULU — A Navy plan to dredge dozens of acres of coral to make way for a new aircraft carrier berth on Guam is triggering an outcry among locals concerned the move will wipe out important marine life and a valuable part of the island’s livelihood and culture.

The Navy wants the berth because its aircraft carriers are spending more time in the western Pacific as the U.S. provides a deterrent to North Korea and monitors the rapid growth and modernization of China’s military.

Guam’s fishermen are worried the dredging will hurt fish stocks and harm their ability to catch fish to feed their families. Others worry the tourism industry will suffer as the dredging hurts coral visited by scuba divers and submarine tours. Federal agencies have told the Navy they’re concerned about the large scale impact the plan would have.

“They’re saying ‘We’re going to destroy 70 acres of an irreplaceable natural resource of yours,’ ” said Cara Flores-Mays, an active leader of the group We Are Guahan, an organization that is criticizing the coral dredging plan and other aspects of the military’s buildup on Guam. “This is a place that sustains life. It helps us to continue our cultural practices, it enables our economy to flourish.”

Sen. Benjamin J. Cruz, vice speaker of Guam’s legislature, said he couldn’t believe the Navy was planning to rip coral out of the water at a time when the public has become more aware of how important coral is to marine life and the environment.

He noted the U.S. government actively supported the International Year of the Reef in 2008. The project’s website notes reefs support 25 percent of the world’s marine life, are known as the rainforests of the ocean, and offer a nursery ground and refuge to many organisms from sponges to shrimp and sea turtles.

“It’s ecologically unsound and it will destroy our tourism,” Cruz said of the Navy’s plan. “The coral is all part of the basis of the ecosystem of the ocean.”

He compared the situation on Guam, where the military is also planning move 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa, to the 2009 blockbuster science fiction movie, “Avatar.”

“Like the blue people in Avatar, we’re being run over,” Cruz said. “They’re just coming in and destroying everything.”

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