Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Saipan's Grotto

Every dive at the Grotto lately and I spend at least a half hour untangling fishing line from coral heads and picking up chunks of rebar, nuts, bolts and old bearings that are being used as sinkers. I understand that Fish & Wildlife finally caught 2 Chinese fishermen there last week and are charging them. The problem is that it is only a misdemeanor and will take 3 offenses before they can be deported. This is a serious problem and it's creating a public safety issue for the tourists that go diving there, our #1 dive attraction. I think the legislature needs to rethink the lenient punishment they have provided for fishing at the Grotto and make it punishable by immediate deportation. Get rid of the contract workers doing this as soon as they are caught and you won't have to worry about repeat offenders. I dive the Grotto 4-5 times a weekend, and I come up with at least this much junk from every single dive. Isn't it time to do something about it?
This is what the Grotto looked like Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. I have never seen so many people there, and I was glad they all showed up for the memorial dedication for the late Vicente "Ben" Concepcion. He has been called the father of diving on Saipan. He is the one who brought the first compressor here and started the diving industry. He is also the one who discovered most of the dive spots that we currently enjoy today. I know that I certainly appreciate the legacy he left.
This is the memorial that they unveiled for him at that ceremony, you can't miss it whether you're just taking a look down in the Grotto from the observation deck or whether you're going down the stairs to descend into the Grotto itself.
Governor Ben Fitial addressed the crowd and spoke of the legacy left by Ben Concepcion. There were at least 100 people who showed up to pay their respects to this pioneer who was being honored on his birthday. Quite a few of us thought it seemed only fitting to do a dive and get out just in time for the ceremony. I'm quite sure that Ben would have thought that was a great idea, although he'd have probably wanted to skip the ceremony all together and just do another dive.
This is also a sign at the Grotto, and if you've been reading my blog long, or have looked at my pictures on my smugmug site, http://www.saipandiver.smugmug.com/ you will probably recognize the smaller pictures at the bottom of the sign. I took all those pictures and agreed to let them be used on these signs as long as I was given credit for the pictures on the signs, I didn't charge them anything for them. The person I gave the pictures to and had the agreement with didn't hold up their end of the bargain though and the signs came out without any credit on them. I talked to Maryanne Teregeyo, who is the head of Enforcement at Fish & Wildlife about it, and she agreed to have a sticker added to the signs giving credit for the pictures. Maryanne is also the daughter of the late Ben Concepcion, so Saturday was a very big day for her. She made sure that the stickers were ready and put on this sign in time for the ceremony as well.
Thanks Maryanne, it's nice to deal with somebody who follows through and makes sure the things she promises get done. The topside of the Grotto is definitely looking nice these days, now if we could just make sure that it was kept looking as pristine underwater.

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