U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Bloc Seeks Federal Sea Grants

by Scott Radway

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News): September 27, 2002 - To build regional capacity to manage marine resources, officials from colleges as far away as American Samoa are on Guam this week to hammer out a plan that would bolster the case for federal sea grant status.

Sea grant status is a designation that could bring millions of dollars in federal funding to protect and sustain marine resources. But the region, which covers an area of sea as large as the continental United States, has yet to receive such designation.

Today, Guam and the surrounding islands fall under Hawaii's sea grant college program. In 2001, the region created a network of colleges called the Pacific Island Regional Sea Grant Consortium to push for its own program.

We just don't have the funding," said Ahser Edward, a marine sciences teacher at the College of Micronesia based in Pohnpei, explaining the need for the program. "This would help us do things we never dreamed of."

The highly competitive sea grant program could provide funding for such initiatives as training resource managers, developing marine science curriculums for various educational levels, public outreach and research, said Steve Amesbury, director of the University of Guam's Marine Laboratory.

Amesbury said the initial push for regional colleges would be to build the local capacity to manage resources by training local people to make sound scientific decisions on conserving their resources.

He explained that many islands depend on outside input from experts that pass through the region. But to truly manage resources, islands need managers who will stay permanently in the region. They need locals to take the helm.

Talk yesterday included developing new methods for sharing information regionally and building a network among the colleges to further advance the development of marine resource managers. Representatives from UOG, the College of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands College, the College of the Marshall Islands, American Samoa Community College and the Palau Community College are attending the three- day workshop, which ends today.

Amesbury said the hope is to have a draft plan completed this week that would be fleshed out over the next few months with price tags. Amesbury said to launch a viable sea grant program, the consortium will seek about $750,000.

Delegate Robert Underwood, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is still working in Washington, D.C., to push through a bill that includes $2.7 million to develop programs that would enable the region the qualifications for sea grant college designation.

For more information on the Pacific Islands Sea Grant Regional Consortium, visit www.nsgo.seagrant.org.