The Northern Marianas are not the only islands in the Pacific to have a large marine protected area that restricts industrial fishing. Last week the Cook Islands parliament formally established its Morae Moana, which includes an area that restricts all industrial fishing around all of their islands out to 50 miles.
One of the first countries to protect large areas of ocean was Kiribati, home to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. The 400,000 square kilometer marine protected area is one of the largest in the world and protects about 11% of Kiribati’s waters.
Palau is another country that protects large swaths of its ocean. Two years ago President Tommy Remengesau created the 500,000 square kilometer Palau Marine Sanctuary, which puts 80% of their Exclusive Economic Zone off-limits to fishing. The remaining 20% is open for local fishermen. The law also bans exports of fish, so all fish that are in their waters must be used locally.
The largest protected area in the Pacific is the 1.5 million square kilometer Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. It is the first protected area in the world to merge modern and cultural conservation practices.
Other places in the Pacific considering these large scale marine protected areas include New Zealand around the Kermadec Islands, Australia’s Coral Sea, Easter Island, the Austral Islands and Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, and New Caledonia.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recommends protecting 30% of the ocean. The 1,300 government agency and non-government organizations that make up the IUCN made the recommendation based on the best available science with a goal to “reverse existing adverse impacts, increase resilience to climate change, and sustain long-term ocean health.”
Our Mariana Trench Monument Islands Unit is about 42,000 square kilometers and covers about 5% of the US EEZ around our islands. I hope that our people can learn about the other islands protecting the ocean, and that we can come to understand how important this is.
Ignacio V. Cabrera
I Agag, Saipan