Guam and the CNMI are designated as fishing communities because of the number of people who are dependent on fishing for subsistence; the economic importance of fishery resources to the islands; and the geographic, demographic, and cultural attributes of the communities. On Guam, commercial and recreational fishing activities originate from one of the three principal harbors located on the west coast and southern tip of the island. Recreational and subsistence fishermen in the CNMI primarily fish in shallow waters near Saipan.
Fishermen also fish and transit through the waters around Farallon de Medinilla (FDM). FDM is an active Navy training area where dangerous training activities occur. The U.S. Department of Defense leases FDM for use as a bombing range where target practice, rocket firing, and other military training activities take place. FDM is designated exclusively for military use, and there are no commercial or recreational activities on or immediately adjacent to the island.
Because dangerous military activities are conducted on FDM, the island, surrounding airspace and nearshore waters are restricted to public access out to a three-nautical-mile (nm) radius from the center of FDM. The Navy has previously proposed an extension of the restricted area and establishment of a danger zone out to 12 nm. The danger zone will be established under the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The restricted airspace and danger zone are intended to keep airmen, fishermen and other people safe. When not in use by the military, civilian vessels can enter the danger zone, up to the 3-nm radius around FDM.
Three popular fishing areas are located along the northwestern boundary of W-517: Galvez Bank, Santa Rosa Reef, and White Tuna Banks. The military is working to limit access restrictions only to the portions of W-517 needed during certain military training and testing activities. Limited restrictions would allow fisherman access to popular fishing areas, including transit to Galvez Bank, Santa Rosa Reef, and White Tuna Banks, while military training and testing activities are conducted elsewhere in W-517.