Monday, April 27, 2009

Micronesia Challenge Climate Change Workshop

April 14-17 the Micronesia Challenge Climate Change Workshop was hosted in the Republic of the Marshalls Islands.

Assessing potential oil spills from WWII Wrecks

Oil, chemicals and unexploded ordinance from an estimated 800 World War II Wrecks throughout the exclusive economic zones of Pacific Island countries and territories pose imminent danger to people, environment and fisheries of the region.

Of this total, more than 50 World War II shipwrecks can be found in Chuuk lagoon alone. Chuuk, formerly Truk, is one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia requesting assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to assess the environmental risk posed by these wrecks.

In April, SPREP’s Marine Pollution Adviser AnthonyTalouli visited Chuuk after an Earthwatch Report assessed the leaking wrecks in Chuuk, one of the World’s best dive spots, and found a number of areas of concern.

Talouli worked with members of the Chuuk Environment Protection Agency and other Government agencies to survey the coastal area and determine the extent of the present impact of the wrecks and determine the potential for from future oil spills and the resulting environmental damage.

“Part of the assistance SPREP provided was to assess what would happen to nearby coastal resources if the wrecks were to fail and the oil was to spill out catastrophically at once,” Talouli explained.

In 2001 a State of Emergency was declared in Yap, another of the FSM states, after oil began leaking from the USS Mississinewa, a sunken World War II-era US military oil tanker. SPREP conducted an independent study on the wreck and the estimated impacts of the oil spill found that somewhere between 18,000 gallons to 24,000 gallons of oil had been released into the lagoon over a two-month period, but that some 5,000000 gallons of oil remained in the wreck. The US Navy was tasked with offloading the remaining oil cargo in 2003.

Eight of the wrecks in Chuuk are confirmed to be slowly leaking however the duration of the leaks is not known. Anecdotal evidence indicates the leaks may be slowing down.
Talouli also looked at the economic impact a dangerous oil spill could have upon the Chuukse economy. As a popular international dive destination, Chuuk’s main industry is tourism.
“We had four days of site surveys using the Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT) where we visited wrecks, looked at currents and then determined the trajectory of a potential oil spillage. You could see oil slowly leaking and visible on the water. At this stage it is not dangerous however a typhoon could easily change that. Right now, I’d say it is a tier 1-2 oil spill, on a small scale,” Talouli said.

While in Chuuk, Talouli carried out a refresher course with the local oil spill response team using equipment purchased in 2006.

“They did very well and proved to be experienced with handling the equipment. They are capable to cope with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 oil spill.”

Talouli is now preparing an assessment report to present to the Chuuk State Government to assist them in developing a comprehensive strategy to deal with the wrecks.

For more details please contact SPREP’s Marine Pollution Adviser, Anthony Talouli E: T: (685) 21929 F: (685) 20231 E:

You are invited to view Nan W's photo album: Chuuk Wreck Oil Spill Assessment April 09

Chuuk Wreck Oil Spill Assessment April 09
Apr 2, 2009by Nan W
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Message from Nan W:

Images taken by Anthony Talouli while in Chuuk, April, 2009.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friends of the Monument on NBC

The Friends of the Monument were featured as part of a series on the ocean that played on NBC Nightly News during the week of Earth Day.

NBC also put together a piece called, "Voices from Saipan," that is viewable only on the Internet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Final Tally

We're done tallying up the final numbers for the Island Wide Cleanup. It is funny to think that several weeks worth of work are going to boil down to a sentence like, "27,070 lbs of trash were picked up by 4,140 volunteers from 61 volunteer groups at 54 adopted sites." I guess that's what this kind of stuff comes down to in the end.

So those are our official numbers. Here they are again:

Number of volunteers participating: 4,140
Weight of trash removed: 27,070 lbs (13.5 tons)
Volunteer groups participating: 61
Number of adopted sites: 54

There are too many people to thank for our success, but my Thank You letter is a start.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thank you

Over the weekend over 4000 volunteers spent a few hours cleaning up the island of Saipan in what was the largest cleanup in Micronesian history. I wrote the following letter to the editor to thank all those who volunteered
Friday was an amazing day. Thank you. Thousands of people came together for a single cause: a more beautiful Saipan. Young and old, citizen and non-citizen, local and non-local, government workers and business owners volunteered a few hours of their time to pick up the trash littering our beautiful island. Later this week the islands of Tinian and Rota will do the same. Again, Thank you.

Our results were staggering. The final numbers are still being tallied, but our preliminary count shows 4040 volunteers, 55 volunteer groups and 48 adopted sites on Saipan, and 12,960 lbs of trash removed from our streets, beaches, and parks.

The collaboration between groups to make this island wide cleanup a success was enormous. Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Rotary Club of Saipan handled most of the pre-cleanup coordination and sign-ups. Marianas Visitors Authority, Marianas Tourism Education Council, McDonald’s, and the Kramis Family provided funds for supplies and prizes. On the day of the cleanup DEQ, Bureau of Environmental Health, and Division of Parks and Recreation coordinated all of the trash pickup. Additionally there were 55 volunteer group coordinators, who ensured that their adopted site had rubber gloves, trash bags, and most importantly, volunteers.

In every way, from the total number of volunteers, to the number of participating groups, to the amount of litter removed, this year’s cleanup was bigger than anything the Beautify CNMI coalition has ever accomplished.

Furthermore, if the success of this cleanup has anything to teach us, it is that the government does not have the sole responsibility of solving our social problems, nor do they hold a monopoly on having the ability to fix them. We just showed that with a slight change in ethic and a small amount of effort on everyone’s part we can move mountains, in this case a 6.5 ton mountain of cans, bottles, and cigarette butts.

Unfortunately, Saipan’s streets and beaches will be covered in litter by the end of the week. Over the weekend hundreds of people went to the beach and left their trash, cigarette butts and cans are still being thrown out of cars, and homestead residents continue to dump their trash in the jungle.

Instead of being discouraged by this realization, I ask all of you to become reenergized. Change happens. The success of Beautify CNMI over the last three years and this latest cleanup are proof of that. Let us redouble our efforts to turn the Marianas into the cleanest, safest islands in the Pacific.

I encourage the volunteer groups that participated in this cleanup to adopt their spot for the next 12 months. Become the steward of that road, beach, or park for the next year.

I also encourage the eight government agencies charged with enforcing our litter laws to start making examples of some of the worst litter offenders. Hand out a few of those $500 tickets to businesses not properly storing their garbage or to residents dumping their trash illegally.

Finally, I encourage our donors to continue supporting our cleanup efforts. We cannot paint over graffiti if we do not have paint and we cannot pick up litter if we do not have garbage bags.

Volunteers, government policy, and business support are the three legs on which Beautify CNMI stands. The continued involvement of all three will improve the quality of life for the people that live here and make us a more desirable tourism destination.

Again, thank you to all who have supported the concept of Beautify CNMI over the last three years and to everyone who participated in this historic island wide cleanup. I look forward to many more years of collaboration and hard work as we move towards a more perfect Commonwealth.

Angelo Villagomez
Beautify CNMI

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nearly 4000 Ready to Beautify CNMI

The largest island-wide cleanup in Micronesian history is set to begin in a few short hours. From the Marianas Variety:
4,000 volunteers are set to hit the streets and beaches of Saipan in what is expected to be the largest islandwide cleanup in Micronesian history, a media release stated.

“The support the community is showing us has been tremendous,” explained co-organizer Angelo Villagomez of Pew Environment Group. “We have businesses, government agencies, schools, and even families registered to participate.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 51 volunteer groups had adopted 48 sites around Saipan. According to Beautify CNMI volunteer Ken Kramer, “The cleanup we organized in 2006 had 32 volunteer groups. This one is nearly double the size.”

Deputy Secretary of Labor and Beautify CNMI founder Cinta Kaipat had a reminder for all participants: “Don’t forget to take before, during, and after pictures of your cleanups. We will post these on the Beautify CNMI blog and the two groups with the largest number of volunteers and most trash collected will win $100 each. We’ll use the photos submitted to determine the winners.”

The Division of Environmental Quality, the Rotary Club of Saipan, the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Marianas Tourism Education Council are the co-organizers of the islandwide cleanup. Supplies were donated by MVA and McDonald’s.

For more information on the how to participate in the cleanup, contact Joe Kaipat at 664-8500 or Angelo Villagomez via email at .

A list of all participants can be found by visiting

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Carnival of the Blue 23

carnival of the blueCarnival of the Blue 23 is now posted at Deep Sea News. I contribute regularly to this blog carnival, having hosted twice.

A Blog Carnival is a particular kind of blog community. There are many kinds of blogs, and they contain articles on many kinds of topics. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. every monday, or on the first of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors opinions or remarks.

Carnival of the Blue is published on the first Monday of each month. Topics relate to the ocean and conservation, hence the 'blue.' Next month it is hosted on Sea Notes, the blog of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Beautify CNMI looking for award nominations

The Committee Chairs of Beautify CNMI are seeking nominations for their annual Beautify CNMI Steward and Beautify CNMI Champion awards. The two awards will be given out at the end of April.

The awards are given out to recognize the individuals or groups who have been environmental leaders during the past 12 months.

There are two award categories, the Environmental Steward and the Environmental Champion.

The Environmental Steward award recognizes a person or group that leads the community in activities that help protect our environment in a variety of ways. This individual or group has demonstrated the need to take pride in our islands and to take care of the place we all call home. They serve as an example for others, especially the next generation, to follow.

According to Beautify CNMI volunteer Angelo Villagomez, “The Steward Award winners are the backbone of Beautify CNMI. These are the people that volunteer their time every single weekend to improve our environment and our islands.”

The Environmental Champion award recognizes a person or group that exemplifies the Beautify CNMI spirit. Those qualities include volunteerism, cooperation, innovation, creativity and the ability to infect others with the Beauty Virus. The Environmental Champion is a role model for others to follow. They bring environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. They make things happen and effect change.

“The Champion Award winners are the environmental leaders on Saipan,” explained Beautify CNMI founder Cinta M. Kaipat.

The 2007 Environmental Champion winners were PSS teacher Bree Reynolds, MINA board member Kathy Yuknavage, and local activist Captain Carl Brachear. The winners of the 2007 Environmental Steward award were elementary school student Adam Sablan and volunteer group Friends of the Mariana Islands.

The 2008 Environmental Champion winners were Nava Khorram, Marites Castillo of Friends of the Mariana Islands, Katie Busenkell of PAWS, Mike Tripp of Marianas Dive, and Aqua Resort Club. The winners of the 2008 Environmental Steward award were Friends of the Marianas Islands, Marianas Dive, Paseo de Marianas Promoters and Max Aguon and the Pantalon Boys.

To nominate an individual or group, submit a written nomination explaining why that person or group deserves recognition. You can make as many nominations as you like, but individuals and groups can only be nominated for one award category. Nominations must include the award category the nominee is being considered for, a well written argument detailing the reasons why this nominee should be considered, and contact information for the nominee and for the person making the nomination.

Send nominations to Angelo Villagomez at or mail them to PMB 360 BOX 10001; Saipan, MP 96950 or call 285-6462 for more information.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Island Wide Cleanup planning under way in CNMI

The island wide cleanup that is being planned for next Friday was independently planned by three separate organizations. I wrote about organizing an island wide cleanup on The Saipan Blog for the Rotary Club back in January. In February I got an email from DEQ saying that they were planning an island wide cleanup as part of the Commonwealth Earth Day celebration. Then last month, Marianas Tourism Education Council (MTEC) contacted me to let me know that they were also planning an island wide cleanup in April. All three groups had been planning their separate cleanups for some time, it just took us a while to find each other.

When we found that we had similar goals, we immediately decided to work together (this is back in February) and started roping in other partners. Marianas Visitors Authority agreed to donate $1500 for supplies and Tan Holding, the largest employer on the island besides the government, pledged to have all their companies participate (three hotels, several restaurants, an insurance company, a newspaper, among others).

In the classic Beautify CNMI spirit, each group donates that which they are best at donating. I'm a great organizer. DEQ has government contacts and staff and trucks for hauling garbage. MVA has media people. Tan Holdings and the schools have volunteers. MTEC, MVA, and the Kramises in Washington have money. All our donations of time, talent, money, and manpower come together to make for a great event.

A big part of MTEC's involvement is giving support and financial assistance to the local schools. They donated $1000 towards the cleanup effort. They originally offered to split the $1000 equally between the schools and Beautify CNMI, but I asked them to change it to $900 for the students and only $100 for us. The way I figure it, I'm really good at scrounging up supplies and volunteers and if there is money available for students, better to support the students.

They issued a press release about their donation today.
MTEC Offers Top Schools Cleanup Incentives

Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) – Personal responsibility in having a clean tourism destination is being highlighted by Marianas Tourism Education Council (MTEC), as the group announces cash incentives for Northern Marianas schools that join the Earth Month Island-wide Cleanup on April l7, 2009.

In addition to $100 donated to event organizer Beautify CNMI!, MTEC is setting aside $900 for the Public School System to be divided among the top schools with the highest percentage of student turnout for the cleanup.

“Keeping our islands beautiful is an important part of supporting tourism, and we encourage all schools, especially those with MY WAVE (Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically) clubs to have their students join the April 17 event,” said MTEC Chairman Ed Cho. “MTEC is pleased to support this year’s cleanup and help encourage a clean environment for visitors and residents, alike.”

Beautify CNMI partners Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club, and Marianas Visitors Authority are inviting all residents to plant a tree, paint over some graffiti or cleanup a road or a beach during the event. Cleanup over the weekend is also encouraged for people not available on April 17. Assistance with gloves, trash bags, and trash transfer are also available from Beautify CNMI!

Sign-up forms will be the basis of awarding the MTEC incentive. Forms are available from Rotary Club member and event co-organizer Angelo Villagomez at

A complete list of participants for the cleanup can be found at As of today (April 7), six spots have been adopted by eight organizations, accounting for 136 volunteers.
The coordination of the cleanup is going very well. As of 8:31 AM on Wednesday, April 8, we have 11 sites adopted by 13 different groups representing 591 volunteers. We are about 1/10 of the way there with 9 days to go to continue building excitement. I'm optimistic that we'll reach our goal of 5000 volunteers!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

MC Communications Coordinator Job Announcement

Micronesia Challenge


CLOSING DATE: April 30, 2009
TO APPLY: Send cover letter and resume to Charlene Mersai at


The Micronesia Challenge (MC) is a globally unique effort, and is unprecedented in its collaborative regional approach to achieving conservation goals. As such, the MC has the potential to attract both international and national funding as well as fostering pride in island residents as leaders in this unique conservation effort. To fully maximize this potential however, a coordinated, strategic, and sustained marketing strategy, which highlights local success stories at a regional and national level, must be implemented.

Social marketing and communication strategies are now recognized as critical components to successful conservation efforts. Ultimately, conservation is about people. We do not manage resources; we manage how people interact with these resources. The question is no longer whether to involve local communities in conservation, but how.

While most jurisdictions have some level of a public participation plan, and an outreach professional working on engaging local communities in conservation, most have also noted “community support and participation” as a challenge to their efforts. These local professionals will become essential in spreading the messages and goals of the Micronesia Challenge to local stakeholders, and fostering public participation in management actions towards achieving the MC goals. However, they need support to further develop strong social marketing messages, and gain skills to effectively foster environmental stewardship. It is essential to provide long term support to local coordinators as they carry out public awareness strategies in their local jurisdictions.

Finally, there is currently no mechanism for developing a regional marketing approach that emphasizes the unique nature of the Challenge and garners further financial and technical support both nationally and internationally. It is unrealistic to assume that locally-based coordinators can carry out regional MC communications. Their limited time and technical resources must be prioritized for local initiatives. A truly integrated and successful approach requires an individual with highly developed technical marketing skills that can carry out public opinion research, craft effective messages, and implement a sustained and targeted campaign.


Raising public awareness of environmental concerns and how to address these concerns is a central component of any strategy to conserve biodiversity and promote the sustainable use of natural resources. The Micronesia Challenge is a unique and unprecedented conservation endeavour. At the regional level, it requires a:

specialized, effective, regional marketing campaign that conveys a regional message, showcases the participating jurisdictions’ successes, and ultimately attracts foreign and/or national investment;
a reliable communications plan that coordinates regional events and oversees the flow of information between jurisdictions and the greater international community; and
a system that provides technical support to the existing outreach and education strategies of the local jurisdictions.


The Micronesia Challenge Communications Specialist (MCCS) position will assist the five Micronesia Challenge (MC) jurisdictions (The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Republic of Palau, and The Republic of the Marshall Islands) through development of marketing materials and technical assistance. Specifically, the role of the MCCS will include but not be limited to:
· Work with MC Coordinator, MC Communications Team and MC Support team to further develop and implement a regional MC Communications Plan, ensuring the MC is positioned appropriately at important national, regional and international events as they arise.
· Assist MC Coordinator to liaise with donors, the media and the general public to elevate global recognition and support for the Challenge
· Craft regional messages highlighting local success stories
· Work with MC Champions (and Champions Coordinator) to support implementation of communications plan
· Provide support and training for local coordinators as appropriate
· Serve as Web administrator of a regional Web site that will link to existing local web-based information and house communication tools.
· Bring expertise and training to local jurisdictions to support jurisdictional efforts
· Coordinate regional events (e.g. MC Festival/Meeting, training)
· Compile regional reports highlighting local efforts
· Disseminate branding tools and ensure consistency of brand in all MC Communications materials


· Bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Social marketing or related field and at least 3 years related experience or equivalent combination.
· Excellent written and oral communication skills.
· Good interpersonal skills, including the ability to effectively pitch news/feature stories and work with media on deadline.
· Sound judgment, professionalism and, especially, discretion while serving as the media spokesperson for the Micronesia Challenge.
· Demonstrated experience in MS Office, Word, and Excel. May require database management skills with ability to produce reports. Ability to use advanced computer functions including navigating the Internet. Ability to manipulate, analyse and interpret data.
· Ability to organize time and manage diverse activities. Meet deadlines.
· Must be able to present ideas and concepts clearly and in a culturally considerate context and to work effectively within the region other MC partners.
· Preference given to candidates from or with experience in Micronesia or other Pacific Islands.

Communications/Interpersonal Contacts:
· Communication and presentation skills; ability to persuasively convey the mission of MC to diverse groups including donors, the public and others.
· Ability to communicate and coordinate with multiple stakeholders (e.g. local outreach focal points, MC Coordinator, donors, the public, donors, and others) over long distances.
· Ability to work closely with a team of people to develop and implement project plans
· Solicit MC support through clear written communications, including proposal writing and other written materials.

Problem Solving/Decision-Making Responsibility:
· Coordinate multiple projects with several variables, set realistic deadlines, and manage a timeline.
· Interpret guidelines and analyse factual information to adapt or modify processes in response to changing circumstances.
· Duties may require non-routine analysis, research and follow-through.
· Work independently without requiring detailed management review of general work.
· Financial responsibility may include working within a budget to complete projects, negotiating and contracting with vendors, assisting with budget development, and meeting fundraising targets.

Working Conditions/Physical Effort:
· Ability to adapt to dynamic working schedules and environments, including regional travel
· Ability to work under stress during peak workload periods.


The MCCS will be supervised by the MC Regional Coordinator, Charlene Mersai, based in Palau.
Work hours will vary according to task being performed but will average 40 hours per week.
Regional travel may be required to perform certain tasks.
MC Regional Office and host partner organization will provide office space, computer, phone, and administrative support.
The period of performance for this contract is 1 year from the date of award.

Location TBD- finding the right candidate with the right skills is the highest priority

$30,000 to $40,000 per annum

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sign up for the Island Wide Cleanup

I am working with the Division of Environmental Quality, Marianas Visitors Authority, Rotary Club of Saipan, and Marianas Tourism Education Council to coordinate an island wide cleanup for April 17, 2009.

The concept for the cleanup is simple: If several thousand people spend just a couple of hours doing something to improve the islands on the day of the cleanup, the following morning the islands will look pretty nice.

This will make our islands look pretty snazzy in time for Earth Day and for Tourism Month in May.

The coordinators are asking people, businesses, government agencies, schools, and homes to spend an hour or two doing a cleanup at anytime on Friday, April 17, 2009. If you want to adopt a beach that is great, but we are encouraging people to adopt the area near their place of business. Governor Fitial has agreed to allow ALL government agencies to participate during working hours. More information on that should be forthcoming from DEQ and the Governor's Office.

I hope you can participate. I've created a simple signup sheet that will help us track our activities. If you would like me to send you one, please email me at angelovillagomez at gmail dot com. After you fill it out, please either fax or email it back in.

Island Wide Cleanup sign ups begin

The first 50 people have signed up for the Island Wide Cleanup slated to take place on April 17, 2009. The Saipan Mayor’s Office and the Office of Personnel Management were the first organizations to turn in their sign up sheets.

The Office of Personnel Management has adopted the Garapan Fishing Base and has pledged to recruit 20 volunteers to help beautify the area. Likewise, the Saipan Mayor’s Office has adopted Beach Road from Afetnas to Koblerville and has pledged 30 staff for roadside trash collection.

“Our first two signups adopted the roads and areas near their offices. This is what we envisioned when we started planning this cleanup,” said co-organizer Joe Kaipat of Division of Environmental Quality. “We hope to get at least 5000 volunteers this year,” he added.

According to the organizers, the goal of this year’s island wide cleanup is to recruit at least 5000 volunteers to spend a few hours beautifying the islands, whether it is by picking up litter on a road or beach, painting over graffiti, planting a few trees, or participating in some other activity.

The cleanup organizers are encouraging participants to adopt a spot near their homes, offices, or schools, although some organizations will adopt beaches and/or tourist sites.

The organizers are encouraging the community to get involved as much as possible.

Event co-organizer Angelo Villagomez said, “It would be great if we could get a few families to adopt the roads near their homes. We want people to take ownership and responsibility for the upkeep of their areas of the island.”

The Marianas Visitors Authority is providing funds for garbage bags, rubber gloves, and some paint and the Division of Environmental Quality has pledged to assist with transferring solid waste collected to the transfer station in Lower Base. Supplies, if needed, will be available for pickup at the Division of Environmental Quality.

Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club of Saipan, Marianas Visitors Authority, and Marianas Tourism Education Council are the co-organizers of the island wide cleanup.

For more information on the how to participate in the cleanup, contact Joe Kaipat at 664-8500 or Angelo Villagomez at 285-6462 or via Email at