Fishing industry picking back up; more fish swimming closer to shore

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Manny Duenas, president of the Guam Fisherman's Coop.

Only about 25 percent of Guam’s fishermen have been fishing during the COVID-19 crisis because the majority of fishers are over 50 and needed to quarantine.

However, now that fishing charters have been allowed to re-open, the industry is picking back up, according to Manny Duenas, the president of the Guam Fisherman’s Coop.

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“They’re all individually owned, they’re all small private companies, they’re all local companies – much like the bars and restaurants around Guam, for the most part. So, they were greatly impacted by the shutdown,” Duenas said.

Duenas says Guam’s fisherman supply only about 5 percent of the local fish consumed and the remaining 95 percent is imported.

Meanwhile, Duenas said Guam fishermen are noticing more fish closer to shore, with very few tourists taking to the water in the wake of COVID-19.

In April, a nurse shark was seen swimming around the waters in Tumon in a video circulated widely on social media.

Duenas says a black and white snapper was caught near shore recently, a fish he’s never seen in Guam waters.

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“So I took a picture of it and sent it to the biologist to find out what it is because it was the first time I’ve ever seen it in 25 years of handling fish. And he reported back to me that it’s a snapper associated with pelagic sharks,” Duenas said.

He added: “It’s also weird that the fish are so relaxed, we’re seeing certain species that are not near-shore species, they’re further off-shore species, which is also another concern I have because you’re going to have more pelagic – meaning ocean roaming sharks or creatures – that are going to come closer to shore.”

Duenas says most species will retreat back to their regular areas when tourists and boats come back but there may be some territorial wars between humans and the more aggressive fish types.

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