No changes for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument


Some of you may have read the article that The Washington Post published early this week talking about Secretary Zinke’s report, which is still in draft but was leaked from the White House. The draft report discusses 10 monuments. Zinke appears to make recommendations 1) regarding the sizes of the land based sites and 2) about the activities for the Pacific Remote Islands Area and American Samoa.  No mention was made about the marine monuments in Hawaii and the Marianas.

As things look now, it does not appear like President Trump will open our Mariana Trench monument to industrial commercial fishing. Since most of our local people supports marine conservation, this is a good thing. Of the three units of the MTMNM, only the Islands Unit protects the water column (the Trench and the Volcanic units only protect the seabed). The Islands Unit is only 4.3 percent of the total U.S. exclusive economic zone surrounding the CNMI. We should be continuing to look at ways to work with the federal government to increase the total protected waters in the spirit of local and traditional practices for the benefit our children and grandchildren.

While the Trump administration continues its discussion, I again call on Gov. Torres to ask the federal government for co-management of our Mariana Trench monument. The monument in Hawaii is co-managed by the state government and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The Chamorro and Carolinian people and our local government are deserving of equal treatment. Co-management is the best way we can ensure our voice is heard to protect ecological integrity and our cultural legacy.

We should be looking forward to getting President Trump’s review behind us, so they can move forward with publishing the long-delayed monument management plan, which we hope will result in seeing more of the $3 million annual NOAA MTMNM budget coming to the CNMI, instead of staying in Hawaii.

And for the record, I have no idea what John Gourley is talking about when he comments that the Friends of the Marianas are supposedly requesting for 50 percent of the entire Marianas EEZ. The FOM has only asked that NOAA Sanctuaries consider our nomination of the existing boundaries.

Ignacio Cabrera
I Agag, Saipan

Contributing Author

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