Since the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was declared 8 years ago, the pace of developing the monument has been slow and frustrating to many people, especially to me. But over the last several months there have been several positive developments regarding the monument.
The Friends of the Marianas Trench have engaged in a public outreach effort the last three months by talking to government offices and talking to our leaders about these things. Here is a list of the things we discussed, along with updates of how our monument is progressing.
There has been increased global interest in the Marianas Trench. In the last 12 months, scientific expeditions led by the Chinese government, U.S. government, and private foundations have used remotely operated vehicles to explore the depths of our surrounding water.
Many new discoveries have been made in our waters, including species new to science.
The submerged lands deal that was promised by the Bush Administration to Governor Fitial with the declaration of the monument is complete. Department of Interior Secretary Jewell and Governor Torres signed an agreement last month.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has hired staff to manage the monument.
NOAA Fisheries is close to hiring staff to help manage the monument.
A draft management plan will be released in the coming months for public review. This will be one of the final steps before active management begins.
Governor Torres and U.S. Delegate Kilili have written to President Obama about bringing additional educational and research funds to the Northern Marianas using the NOAA sanctuary program.
The Pew Charitable Trusts helped us with the paperwork to start a sanctuary process here.
Nearly every elected official has written to the Obama Administration to ask for the sanctuary program to come to the Northern Mariana Islands.
The Marianas Trench has been nominated as a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only nine places in the United States being currently considered for such an honor. I know that there is a perception that nothing is happening with the monument, but the opposite is actually true, and we’re just getting started. You started hearing a lot more about the Marianas Trench in 2016, and now I predict you will hear about it a lot more.