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Many people of the Mariana Islands use and depend on the ocean to make a living through tourism, boating, fishing, and shipping. The coast and ocean are also popular places for recreational activities, such as swimming, scuba diving, and water sports.

Military personnel share the ocean and coastal areas with the community and recognize the importance of public access. The military strives to be good neighbors by maintaining access to public areas whenever possible and ensuring safety at all times. The Navy, Coast Guard, and local Civil Defense work together to ensure people are safe while enjoying the ocean and beaches.

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.

The safety of military personnel and the public is of utmost importance. For the public’s safety, the military may temporarily limit public access to some areas during certain training and testing activities. With the exception of exclusive use or restricted areas, the public has access during periods when not in use by the military. When areas are scheduled for military use, the Navy coordinates with the Coast Guard and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to publish notices of temporary closures to help the public plan accordingly and avoid temporarily restricted areas. The military also notifies appropriate local agencies.

The military observes every precaution when planning and executing training and testing activities to prevent injury to service members and the public. Some precautionary measures include:

  • Ensuring impact areas and targets are unpopulated prior to potentially dangerous activities
  • Cancelling or delaying activities if public or personnel safety is a concern
  • Notifying the public of the location, date, and time of potentially dangerous activities
  • Implementing temporary access restrictions to training areas

These precautionary safety measures are intended to ensure the safety of the public during scheduled military training and testing activities. These measures, along with the cooperation of the public and commercial and recreational users of the air and sea spaces around Guam and the CNMI, will enable safe training and testing. The Navy remains committed to the safety of all concerned, and will continue to publish Notices to Mariners to announce the location, activity and duration of training and testing activities. Mariners are requested to follow and adhere to the published notices.