Workshop tackles environmental laws

It’s great to have laws to protect the environment, but if you can’t enforce those laws when they’re broken, they’re not much use.

Dozens of local and federal government officials met this week to talk about those laws and better ways to enforce them as part of a two-and-a-half-day environmental enforcement workshop put together by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal and local agencies.

There are dozens of local and federal laws pertaining to everything from how cars can be built to how many balate’ a person can take from the ocean in one day. And there are several different federal and local agencies with the charge to enforce such laws, said Sylvia Quast, a senior attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, who came up with the workshop idea.

She said the idea behind the workshop was to bring people from several agencies together to see how they might work better together to enforce the laws and to consider various enforcement techniques.

The conference also was tailored to Guam’s specific needs, she said. For example, she said, one issue discussed was the illegal exportation of local species, a problem that exists in Guam and other island nations.

In fact, on a national level, the illegal trade of wildlife ranks immediately behind narcotics and arms, she said.

“People are willing to pay enormous amounts of money to have endangered wildlife and keep it in a cage or an aquarium,” she said.

U.S. Attorney Lenny Rapadas, who also participated in the workshop, said in his career as a prosecutor, he has prosecuted cases of illegal taking of live coral and shellfish.

He said the federal agencies convened in Saipan last week for a similar workshop for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands enforcement officials.

Also participating in the workshop were on- and off-island officials from several different federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service, the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Locally, the enforcement arms of several agencies participated, including the Guam Police Department Marine Patrol Division, Guam EPA, Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Research, Customs and Quarantine Agency and Department of Parks and Recreation