UNESCO inclusion sought for Marianas Trench

The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument could be nominated to be added to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.

Federal officials in Hawaii with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worked with locals including Richard Seman, Genevieve Cabrera, Cinta Kaipat, Ignacio V. Cabrera, and Angelo Villagomez to submit the nomination in early 2016.

“Residents of the Marianas have long known that the natural resources surrounding our islands are spectacular,” said Villagomez. “Now our very own Marianas Trench could be recognized as one of the most significant features on the planet.”

Nan Madol in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and the Rock Islands in Koror, Palau were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016, 2010, and 2012, respectively. The list contains 1,052 locations in nearly every country and includes the most iconic historical, cultural, and natural places on the planet from the Great Wall of China, to the pyramids of Egypt, and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii.

The proposed listing on UNESCO could be a boon to tourism and would literally put the Northern Mariana Islands on the checklist of the best places to visit on the planet.

“The Japanese tourist market is very aware of the UNESCO World Heritage List,” said Aya Matsumoto, a resident of Saipan with nearly three decades of experience in tourism. “Japan has 20 World Heritage Sites and they are all very popular places to visit. If we had a World Heritage Site, like those in Palau, FSM, and Marshall Islands, the Japanese would want to visit.”

UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. World Heritage Sites are places that have special cultural or physical significance.

“I see the UNESCO listing as helping to bring us closer to achieving the goals we set 10 years ago regarding the monument,” said Cabrera, chairman of the Friends of the Marianas Trench, an organization that has advocated for cultural and natural resource protection for nearly a decade. “We know that progress has been slow, but we’re starting to see some of those benefits.”

Part of the mission of UNESCO’s World Heritage mission is to “encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage.”

The pending nomination was announced on the Federal Register on Dec. 9 and there is a comment period until Dec. 27. Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands who support the listing can contact the Friends of the Marianas Trench at marianamonument@gmail.com and they will add your name and comment to their submission. (PR)

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