Group: More action on trench monument needed

Laurie Peterka, right, secretary of the Friends of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument, gives a presentation on the Marianas Trench at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan last Tuesday. (Fahim Uddin)

The group called Friends of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument says that local and federal authorities should do more to fulfill the promises made by former U.S. president George W. Bush when he made the Northern Islands and surrounding waters part of the marine conservation sanctuary.

“They are doing okay but we need more than that. We [need more] support from the federal agency, federal government, and the CNMI. This issue we are facing right now in the marine monument is for everybody,” said FTMM chair Ignacio V. Cabrera as guest speaker in Tuesday’s Rotary Club of Saipan meeting.

The monument includes the Marianas Trench, considered the deepest part of the globe, and 95,216 square miles of submerged lands and waters in various places in the Mariana Archipelago.

The designation of the Marianas Trench as a monument happened in 2008 under President George W. Bush’s administration.

Cabrera said the FTMM wants the community to better understand and support the monument, of which the original plans include, among other things, the building of a Marianas Trench exhibit, which includes a command center and a land-based sign trail where they teach science and promote the Marianas Trench.

In the future, Cabrera said they hope for more individuals to join the FTMM to explore ocean life.

FTMM secretary Laurie Peterka said the Marianas Trench Marine Monument continues to be a community-driven project that has a “void” left open by the federal government.

She said the federal government should treat the monument the way the local government takes care of the CNMI’s World War II memorials.

“We have our World War II history signs around the island to tell us the history of the war effort here. We would like to do something similar to science and to help bring visibility on what’s under the water by putting a sign on top on what’s below,” she said.

Fish and Wildlife fellow Abigail Gritis also gave an overview of what constitutes the monument, which is made up of three units—the trench unit, volcano unit, and island unit.

She said the monument is managed by both secretaries of Commerce the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense and the CNMI government.

She said FWS’ program for the monument calls for conservation, culture, education, tradition, economy, research, management, and enforcement. According to her, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is in charge of scientific explorations at the monument.

FAHIM UDDIN

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