The Friends of the Mariana Trench is lobbying the Trump administration to consider equal co-management of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument with the CNMI government.
In response to U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order 13792, which direct the Department of the Interior to review monument designations under the Antiquities Act, Friends of the Mariana Trench chair Ignacio Cabrera underscored with the federal government how important the monuments are to the people of the Commonwealth.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the U.S Chamber of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Cabrera said the Commonwealth government should be given equal rights when deciding the fate of the monument.
The monument includes the Marianas Trench 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. Former governor Benigno Fitial’s administration worked closely with the Bush administration to establish the monument.
According to Cabrera, the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian cultures in the Marianas depend on the preservation of the monument for future generations.
In his letter, Cabrera suggests that the local government should have an equal seat in the discussion of the monument because overturning the monument “would defeat” its main purpose, which is to preserve the marine life surrounding the Marianas Trench. “Overturning the monument and allowing commercial fishing would directly harm the visitor industry, the largest economic activity on our island,” added Cabrera.
Aside from co-management of the marine monument, the Friends of the Mariana Trench has also requested that the local government be granted sanctuary process upon request of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, adding that areas surrounding the Marianas Islands should be part of the Marianas Trench National Marine Sanctuary. Funding was also requested in order to carry out the management of the Pacific Marine Monument.
According to Cabrera’s letter, the Marianas Trench Monument protects the culture of the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people and the special natural resources of the Marianas Trench.
“Protecting and honoring these places is our duty as American citizens, indigenous people, and as islanders,” said Cabrera.