A study conducted in 2017 showed that people of the Northern Mariana Islands overwhelmingly support marine protected areas in the CNMI and want more protected areas in their waters.
In his report, “Public Perceptions of Marine Protected Areas in the Northern Mariana Islands,” Danny Morris of the University of York presented data on voter opinions on Saipan regarding marine protected areas and the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.
Ultimately, the hope is that this work will be able to inform decision makers on the best course for improved MPA management.
A video presentation of the work can be viewed on the Mariana Trench Facebook page: www.facebook.com/marianamonument
Around the Northern Mariana Islands, there are eight MPAs. Five of these are small, coastal strict no-take areas and two are small, coastal limited-take where specific species cannot be extracted. In addition to these coastal protections is the Islands Unit of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, which protects the federal waters around the far Northern Islands of Asuncion, Maug, and Uracus.
To get a representative sample of opinions, Morris interviewed 253 people of all ages and backgrounds on the island. The survey took an average of 15 minutes and included open-ended and closed questions.
The results of the survey showed that the people in the CNMI support MPAs. When asked how much of the Mariana Islands ocean space should be protected, the average answer was 57 percent.
There were less positive responses when asked similar questions about the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, but they were still overwhelmingly positive. From these results, Morris deduced several steps that could be taken moving forward that could increase the understanding of the monument with the public.
He suggested that the benefits and successes of the monument should be better communicated to ensure a well-informed public opinion. Morris also suggests that there should be better representation of the local people on the Advisory Council, which currently is only three people. Further, he recommends that CNMI obtain co-management with the U.S. government and the completion of the long overdue management plan.
Marine protected areas have long been proven to be a powerful tool in effectively managing marine resources and ecosystems. They are the oldest form of fisheries management tool, and have existed in the Pacific for centuries. These survey results show that MPAs are also overwhelmingly supported by the community and the creation of new protected areas would be welcome. (PR)