Torres laments unfulfilled marine monument promises


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has written to President Barack Obama on the proposed expansion of a Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, encouraging the move if it helps protect ocean resources.

But Torres also stresses that this should be based on solid facts and not “optimistic promises,” and points to the unfulfilled mandates of the NMI’s own marine national monument, noting that protecting ocean resources is a “necessary consideration,” but so too is the “follow through to complete what has already been started.”

The May 3 letter largely focuses on Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, which was established by former president George Bush in 2009, and protects over 95,000 miles of water and submerged lands.

Over in Hawaii, the proposal is to expand the PMNM to the full 200-miles exclusive economic zone of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, from 140-nuatical miles.

Torres writes that he understand Obama’s decision may depend on results of relevant data and opinions of key stakeholders, and offers the CNMI’s own love and history with the Pacific Ocean and its resources.

“I support the concept to do whatever it takes to ensure the survival and enrichment of our oceans and seas,” Torres said. “If expanding the PMNM will ensure the ecological integrity of the marine resources and ocean life in this portion of the Pacific, I would easily support such a decision.”

However, Torres adds that leading up to the establishment of the Marianas monument, government officials and environmental organizations touted great economic benefits that the CNMI could receive.

Torres said one study suggested that the CNMI would benefit some $10 million per year in direct spending with approximately $5 million per year in tax revenue, and the creation of nearly 400 jobs as a result of the monument’s creation.

“Unfortunately that has not happened,” Torres said. “The CNMI has yet to receive any such benefits and I therefore encourage you to ensure your decision of whether to expand the PMNM is based on solid information and facts—not optimistic promises.

“Further, I also encourage you to consider and set into place the necessary administrative tools and support to ensure the proper management of all existing U.S. marine monuments.”

Torres explains that immediately after the creation of the Marianas monument, the U.S. departments of Commerce and Interior were instructed to finished the monument’s management plan “within two years” of its designation.

“We are now in the eighth year since the MTMNM was established and our monument and the management plan process have yet to come to fruition. I therefore respectfully request your focus include the monuments already in existence and assistance with the completion of existing MTMNM mandates—as well as the merits of the expanding the” Hawaii monument.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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