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From Exile To Tourist Resort
Rongelap Rebounds With Fishing, Dive, Nature Resort
By Giff Johnson

In a world grown small, with little in the way of frontier left to discover, a trio of isolated coral atolls in the Marshall Islands might soon cause a buzz among those who love the unspoiled outdoors. In much the way Bikini Atoll and its fleet of sunken atomic warships has become a magnet for high-end scuba divers since it opened six years ago, little-known Rongelap and its two neighbors—uninhabited Ailingnae and Rongerik—may soon be the talk among sports fishermen, divers and travelers with a bent for eco-tourism.

Rongelap leaders have seen the success of the Bikini dive program—in the past two years, it has injected some $450,000 into the Bikini community—and are keen to develop Rongelap along similar, though somewhat different lines. "What Bikini is doing is working," says Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi. quot;But Rongelap will be different from Bikini. We won't be competing with them. We’ll be offering blue water fishing, catch and release fly fishing, wall diving and nature tours".

Rongelap is aiming for big-time tourism in the coming years, but is offering a 'sneak preview' starting this month for those who want to fish and dive in virtually untouched waters. The Rongelap Council is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a variety of dive and fishing boats, and on developing a new island-style resort that is expected to open this coming May.

Starting small, Rongelap will be able to accommodate up to 36 people at one time when its new resort opens. Meantime, it’s using its base camp with air conditioned accommodations, built as part of a resettlement program, to launch the sports fishing program in a low-key way until all of its facilities are up and running.

[Extract from article]
(Source: Pacific Magazine and Islands Business, January 2003)

Marshalls Billfish Club
All Micronesia Fishing Tournament Marks 10th Anniversary

In this year's 10th annual Mobil All Micronesia Fishing Tournament in Majuro a 301-pound marlin won first place. In contrast to last year's 'All Mike', when a new record was set by Kyle Aliven hauling in a record smashing 562 pound marlin, this year’s tournament produced only two marlin.

Still there were plenty of good fishing stories about the big ones that got away, and all of the off-island fishing teams went away with prizes. This year's tournament, organized by the Marshalls Billfish Club (MBC), featured teams from Pohnpei, Guam, Saipan, Nauru, Kwajalein, Ebeye and Majuro, and two from the Pacific rim: New Zealand and Japan.

The biggest fish of the tournament — the 301 pound marlin — was caught by MBC angler Ronnie Reimers, who won this year's President's Cup, an award recognizing the best fisherman of the year.

The big cash prizes, however, went to team Pohnpei, captained by Alex Tretnoff, which caught the second place marlin (140 pounds), first place wahoo (31 pounds) and second place barracuda (20 pounds), netting $4,800, plus trophies. The team, that also included anglers Tim Park and Steve Lindsay, picked up two round trip Pohnpei-Majuro tickets from Continental for next year's tournament.

Rules for the Mobil All Mike tournament reserve most of the cash prizes for visiting teams, so that the two Majuro teams entered cannot win cash prizes for biggest fish, only for most points based on total pounds of catch.

Team New Zealand, which included anglers Dennis Smith and Craig Howe, won the first place tuna prize of $1,000, another $200 for placing third in total pounds, and two round trip tickets Majuro-Honolulu on Aloha Airlines for a 53 pound yellowfin.

The 'Roi-Rats' team of Rob Corbin and Mike St. John from Roi-Namur at Kwajalein Atoll, caught a third place wahoo and third place tuna to win trophies. Team Gugeegue, also from Kwajalein and captained by Paul Kabua, won the third place barracuda trophy.

To encourage teams that didn't catch fish or win trophies to come back next year to fish, Outrigger Marshall Islands Resort presented one person on the Saipan, Air Nauru and Aloha Japan teams with seven complimentary nights at the Outrigger.
(Source: Pacific Magazine and Islands Business, October 2002)

YAP workshop showcases Tourism that doesn't hurt environment
Yap, one of four states of the Federated States of Micronesia, hosted the Community Marine Ecotourism Development Workshop, a project sponsored by the Apia, Samoa-based South Pacific Regional Environment Programme. Representatives of government agencies and non-government organizations from seven island groups including Palau, Yap, Guam, Chuuk, Pohnpei, the Marshall Islands, and Nauru received training in ecotourism development and environmental awareness.

According to SPREP marine ecotourism is earning dollars from conservation through ecologically sustainable tourism. Although eco- and cultural tourism has been a mainstay in Central America for more than a decade, marine biologist and SPREP workshop instructor Robin Aiello said the concept is in its infancy in Micronesia.

The Yap workshop is part of a new initiative by SPREP to promote ecotourism developments as a proactive way to maintain or improve environmental quality in a region that is increasingly under environmental stress. Ecotourism expert and SPREP workshop facilitator Russell Boswell said that it's important that ecotourism models be adapted to the local needs in order for it to be successful.
(Source: Pacific Islands Report, via SPTO May 2001)

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