Washington, DC (February 22, 2012) - Today, Marine Conservation Institute filed a formal petition to the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce, asking them to prohibit commercial fishing in America's sensitive and pristine Pacific Island marine national monuments, a ban that President George W. Bush declared when he established the monuments over three years ago.
In January 2009, President Bush established three marine monuments in the central Pacific and prohibited commercial fishing in them because they are incredibly rich marine ecosystems that have been damaged by commercial fishing and in the past. Collectively, the monuments cover 193,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of California. These are the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (a collection of isolated coral island possessions), the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa, and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. The three monuments wrap around a number of National Wildlife Refuges, most of which existed prior to the creation of the monuments.
William Chandler, Vice President for Government Affairs at Marine Conservation Institute, said, "When President Bush designated these magnificent areas for preservation, he specifically directed that commercial fishing be prohibited in them immediately. But now, over three years later, the fishing ban and associated penalties for illegal fishing within the monuments have yet to be put into place. As a result, and despite evidence of illegal fishing in the monuments, the Coast Guard won't enforce the ban. This is inexplicable. We're just trying to get the Administration to do what the presidential designation documents say. There is simply no justification for delay."
Marine Conservation Institute actively supported the designation of the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and remains an advocate for conservation of natural resources within all of the Pacific monuments. Illegal fishing within the monuments threatens these relatively pristine marine ecosystems and their populations of corals, rare reef fish, overfished tuna, sea turtles, whales, and seabirds.
Chandler said, "It is hard to believe a clear directive of the president has gone unimplemented for so long. The responsible federal agencies have had three years to establish fishing rules that ban commercial fishing and leave recreational and indigenous intact, but they have not yet delivered. Without such a ban, these unique ecosystems with their sensitive populations could be damaged by fishermen or their vessels. The world's largest population of giant clams, nesting sea turtles, and areas of tremendous biological diversity are all at risk."
The full text of the Marine Conservation Institute petition to the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce is available at: www.marine-conservation.org
About Marine Conservation Institute
"Saving wild ocean places, for us and future generations"
Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving our living oceans. We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations around the world to protect essential ocean places and the wild species in them. We use the latest science to identify important marine ecosystems around the world, and then advocate for their protection, for us and future generations.
Find Marine Conservation Institute online at www.marine-conservation.org, Twitter, Facebook and on the blog Marine Conservation News.
About the Pacific Islands Monuments
On January 6, 2009, President George W. Bush proclaimed the Pacific Remote Islands (PRIM), Rose Atoll, and Marianas Trench to be Marine National Monuments with Presidential Proclamations 8335, 8336 and 8337 (collectively, "the Proclamations"). This designation of the three Pacific Monuments extended protection to nearly 200,000 square miles of unique natural resources and was the largest act of marine conservation in history. The President's designation of the Pacific Monuments recognized their ecological, scientific and cultural importance, biological diversity and other unique characteristics, and the need to protect them.
The Proclamations invoke the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the President of the United States to designate lands and waters of the United States as National Monuments. Exercising this authority, President Bush established the Pacific Monuments, prohibited commercial fishing, and delegated management authority to the Departments of the Interior and Commerce. Subsequently, FWS and NOAA have affirmed their management authority for the Monuments.
For the PRIM, DOI, through FWS, has responsibility for management of the Monument (including out to 12 nautical miles ("nmi") from the mean low water lines of Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston, Palmyra, and Wake Atolls, and Kingman Reef) and the National Wildlife Refuges contained therein, pursuant to the Proclamation, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. § 668dd-668ee) ("National Wildlife Refuge System Act"), and other applicable legal authorities. Commerce, acting through NOAA, has primary management responsibility seaward of 12 to 50 nmi with respect to fishery-related activities pursuant to the Proclamation, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act ("MSA"), and other applicable legal authorities.
For the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, management responsibility was assigned to the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce. NOAA was assigned primary management responsibility for fishery-related activities in the Monument's marine areas located seaward of the mean low water line of Rose Atoll, pursuant to the MSA and other applicable authority.
For the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, has responsibility for management of the Monument; except that the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, has primary responsibility for management with respect to fishery-related activities regulated pursuant to the MSA, the Proclamation, and other applicable legal authorities.