4 May 2012

Guam move to get economic gain from Challenger Deep

5:22 pm on 4 May 2012

A resolution introduced in Guam's senate has put a spotlight on the economic potential of exploration of the Challenger Deep.

The Challenger Deep is the deepest known part of the world's oceans and part of the Marianas Trench, about 300 kilometres southwest of Guam.

While the Challenger Deep is located within Federated States of Micronesia's waters, Guam senators say there are potential gains to be made from exploration of this environment and that the rest of Micronesia deserves its share.

Johnny Blades reports.

The resolution seeks recognition of the rights of Guam, the Northern Marianas, the FSM and Palau to share in economic gains from their collective natural resources.

It was sparked by Canadian filmmaker James Cameron's recent high-profile exploration of the Challenger Deep.

The film-producer and deep-sea explorer was recently asked about his historic solo dive on American television's Colbert Report:

"Steve Colbert: And now you've gone down to the deepest spot in the ocean, the Mariana Trench, where in the oceans is that?"

James Cameron: Well it's actually near Guam which is Western Pacific, kind of out in the middle of nowhere...

SC: It's part of America, it's not nowhere, sir!

(Audience laughter)

JC: It's in the Federated States of Micronesia, sir!

SC: Why go down there, what's down there man?

JC: Well, it's the last unexplored frontier on planet earth.

SC: How far down are we talking?

JC: Seven miles.

SC: Seven miles?

JC: Thirty-six thousand feet, or eleven thousand metres.

While talks on a regional share of the benefits from the Challenger Deep are only in their infancy, the Governor of Yap State in the FSM says they stand ready to explore the potential.

Despite wide interpretation of who has rights to the Deep, Sebastian Anefal says the Cameron expedition seemed to confirm that Yap is the nearest state to it.

One or two of their boats came to Ulithi and they rested there for like a couple of days in between the dives. They were really not that far. In fact they were telling me that they were going to be much much closer to Ulithi than Guam, and if they were some thirty miles off Ulithi, that's within the 200 miles which fall within the FSM economic zone.

Guam Senator Aline Yamashita, says the Challenger Deep is not routinely nor respectfully referenced as being in Micronesia and it's the sort of thing her resolution seeks to address.

Resolution 405 doesn't focus on Challenger Deep but rather it envisions a potential economic engine where all of us can come together and decide how to best use our natural resources - whether it is for biodiversity, bioprospecting or even if events such as the Challenger Deep occurs - how can the islands best work together to benefit that.

She says the resolution is laying groundwork for more collaboration between Micronesia islands, which is something the recent Micronesian Chief Leaders Summit pledged to focus on in the coming years.