During Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recent trip to America Samoa, a brief discussion occurred around the fate of the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument. Zinke was caught on tape saying, “The President has made a commitment and he accepted the recommendations to make sure the monument is open for fishing.”
Allowing commercial fishing in a marine national monument undermines the designation itself and will harm local fishermen. All the marine national monuments in the Pacific, from Rose Atoll, to the Papahānaumokuā Marine National Monument in Hawaii, to the Mariana Trench Marine Monument in the Mariana Islands, make allowances for local small boat fishermen. Recreational fishing and cultural indigenous fishing are already permitted and carefully managed to protect the resources and the promulgation of cultural practices for future generations. Allowing commercial fishing will mean that small boats will have to compete with the big boats inside the monument borders
Furthermore, suggestions that allowing commercial fishing in a marine national monument may boost jobs or the fishing economy are false and disputed by facts. But you don’t have to take it from me—take it from the Trump administration: NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has announced this month that it is closing the purse seine fishery for 2018 because Pacific fishermen have already reached their quota—in September—for the entire year. This makes the fourth year in a row that fishermen have met their quotas early, sustaining their communities without having access to the four marine national monuments protected in the Pacific.
Opening the monuments to commercial fishing would render them marine monuments in name only, and defy the only protections these few, discrete areas have. Commercial fishing is one important use of the ocean, but it is not the only purpose. Even when consistent with fisheries management laws, commercial fishing affects ocean ecosystems, particularly highly vulnerable ones, such as those within monument areas.
The Trump administration knows this is a fishy and false narrative. When they come for America’s marine monuments, don’t let them get away with it.
National Ocean Protection CoalitionThe uncertain CW situation