by: Jayne Flores | .Guam Community College
Guam Community College is currently hosting an historic, first-ever Marine Terrestrial Conservation Enforcement Academy to enable law enforcement professionals from around the region to study methods of enforcing conservation of precious marine and land resources throughout the Pacific. The Marine Terrestrial Conservation Enforcement Academy covers protection of wildlife, marine life, and efforts to halt human trafficking in the region, according to cadre Lt. Mark Aguon, Officer-in-Charge, Law Enforcement Section, Guam Department of Agriculture.
Eighteen law enforcement officials from police departments, attorneys general offices, and regional Environmental Protection Agency offices on Guam, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk, Palau, and Yap arrived on island in July, and the academy began on July 24th. It will run through October 6, 2017.
“It’s all about marine preserves and resource conservation,” said Aguon. “Police officers and other law enforcement officials have to know what to look for” when confronting environmental resource violations, Aguon noted.
Funding for this charter academy was obtained through a grant from the Micronesian Conservation Trust, and individual island communities also pitched in, according to Aguon. The academy is being conducted in collaboration with the Guam Department of Agriculture and Guam Community College.
Aguon noted that the different island members of this first academy are also members of a non-profit organization – the Pacific Islands Managed & Protested Areas Communities, or PIMPAC, “a long term capacity sharing program and social network of site based managers, non-governmental organizations, local communities, federal, state, and territorial agencies, and other stakeholders working together to collectively enhance the effective use and management of managed and protected areas in the Pacific Islands,” according to www.pimpac.org.
“Instead of just casting individual ‘lines’ of protection, we have a fishnet-type mentality to protecting the whole region,” Aguon said of the concept of PIMPAC.
Aguon said the academy is also highlighting Guam’s “ridge to reef” concept.
“What happens on the ridge, such as burning, poaching, and deforestation, affects the reef. No reef, no fish,” Aguon warned.
The Marine Terrestrial Conservation Enforcement Academy is one of four law enforcement academies running concurrently on the GCC campus, according to Col. (ret.) Dennis Santo Tomas, executive director of the Peace Officer Standards Training, or POST, Commission. GCC is also conducting the 8th Police Officer Training Cycle from the Guam Police Department, the 17th Basic Corrections Officer Cycle from the Department of Corrections, and the 15th Criminal Justice Academy.
“Once they complete their respective academy, many of these students will then continue with their coursework to earn certificates and associate degrees, and then join the law enforcement agency they are most interested in. I am especially proud, as POST executive director, to witness their development and growth as they all become better educated, trained and knowledgeable in law enforcement for the protection of Guam and all the Micronesian Islands,” said Santo Tomas of members of all of the academies. [/restrict]