|PADI Divemaster Hu Jie Fang was caught illegally killing an eagle ray when he posted the photo to Facebook.|
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was one of the first places in the world to fully protect all sharks and rays. They have also joined up with their neighbors to create the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, an area of protected shark habitat in the western Pacific as large as the European Union.
Kudos to CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho for imposing the maximum sentence and making some of the best conservation statements ever spoken from the bench.
“The congregation of spotted eagle rays is easily photographed. Each photo taken home with the tourist is free advertising showing the great beauty and grand scale of aquatic life in the CNMI,” said Camacho, citing the findings and purpose of a bill that the Legislature passed in 2008.Enforcing shark sanctuaries is not easy. The men and women of enforcement agencies are faced with small budgets, and must protect vast areas. Yet they manage to do amazing work. Thank you for all you do!
He said the Legislature further finds that Eagle Ray City is popular with local residents and good for the economy in that it is accessible only by boat; divers (tourists and residents alike) need to hire local guides and secure the services of local boats and captains to reach this spot.
“This type of ecotourism is beneficial to the CNMI’s economy, fits within the advertising campaigns offered by the Marianas Visitors Authority, and should be nurtured, protected, and grown,” he said.
Camacho said the Legislature finds that evidence suggests the eagle rays have been recently hunted to such an extent as to threaten their population levels and as to instill an unnatural fear of divers, thereby threatening one aspect of the Commonwealth’s revenues.
The Legislature finds that spotted eagle rays specifically, and rays generally, are not traditional food fishes in the CNMI.
“Fishing specifically for such rays is not a tradition in the CNMI; the recent practice of doing so is detrimental to the welfare of the Commonwealth and should be prohibited…” Camacho said.
Camacho said that Fang used a spear gun and shot dead an eagle ray while diving at Eagle Ray City, also known as the Ice Cream Diving Spot.
Camacho said Fang is a master diver trained and instructed to respect marine animals.