The Mariana Archipelago is located on the other side of the dateline from the rest of the United States and in that part of Oceania known as Micronesia. It is comprised of the US Territory of Guam and the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), which are more closely related in heritage and tradition to other Micronesian archipelagos than to the United States. Guam and CNMI shared a common geography, political status, history, culture and economy until 1898, when the archipelago was politically divided.
The archipelago’s indigenous Chamorro and Refaluwasch communities have a history of fishing that spans over three millennia. Waves of colonization by Westerners beginning in the 1600s had a devastating impact on traditional fishing practices. Today, the expansion and development of fisheries are still constrained, and most of the fishermen in the archipelago participating in the bottomfish fishery, crustacean fishery and coral reef ecosystem fishery do so primarily for subsistence, barter and cultural sharing purposes, such as for fiestas and food exchanges with family and friends. For information on the pelagic fisheries, click here.
In Guam, waters 0 to 3 miles from shore are managed by the Territory and waters 3-200 miles are federally managed. However, the US government considers all waters from 0 to 200 miles around CNMI as federal. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is working to incorporate locally developed regulations for CNMI near-shore fisheries into federal management measures in the Mariana Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP). This FEP includes a management structure that emphasizes community participation and enhanced consideration of the habitat and ecosystem, protected species and other elements not typically incorporated in fishery management decision-making. Enforcement of federal fishery regulations is handled through a joint federal-territorial partnership. Annual reports on the fisheries are produced by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, with data collection responsibilities shared by various territorial and federal agencies.