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NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY DESIGNATION FOR THE MARIANAS TRENCH MARINE NATIONAL MONUMENT: Completing an Environmental Legacy

Cabrera, Ignacio; Amon, Diva; Thaler, Andrew; Peterka, Laurie; MacPherson, Rick; Kerr, Joni

A report filed by the Friends of the Mariana Trench encouraging the expansion of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument to include a National Marine Sanctuary. 

Executive Summary

● The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was established by President Bush on January 6, 2009 and protects over 95,000 square miles of seafloor and waters in the Mariana Archipelago.

● The Monument consists of three units: the Islands Unit which protects the seafloor and waters around the three northernmost Mariana Islands, Farallon de Pajaros or Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion; the Volcanic Unit, which protects the seafloor surrounding 21 volcanic sites of exceptional scientific and conservation value; and the Trench Unit, which protects the seafloor east of the archipelago inside the US Exclusive Economic Zone from north of Uracus to south of Guam.

● Only the Island Unit includes the water column in its protective scope, protection within both the Volcanic and Trench Units is limited to the seafloor.

● The Bush Administration's proclamation included a mandate to create a management plan for the Marianas Trench National Monument following establishment. As of December 1, 2016, a management plan has neither been completed nor put forward for public review.

● There is an opportunity for the Obama Administration to use the National Marine Sanctuaries process to create a sanctuary in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), building upon a cultural, scientific, and environmental legacy for future generations.

● CNMI Delegate Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan and Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres wrote to President Obama in September 2016 asking to begin a sanctuary process in the Northern Mariana Islands, specifically to enhance the existing Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

● Since 2009, The Friends of the Marianas Trench have written several times to NOAA to ask for OMNS involvement in the management of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, and to enhance the protections afforded the Marianas Trench and the surrounding area, specifically asking to enhance the scope of the Volcanic and Trench Units to include the water column as well as the seafloor.

● Key ecosystems that would benefit from protection include blue water pelagic regions, shallow and deep-water coral reefs, seamounts, hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, cold seeps, and abyssal and hadal communities.

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