04 September 2014

Island leaders oppose Pacific marine monument expansion

Unilateral power to make such designations against the will of the elected governments of the U.S. territories is a hallmark of the U.S. - territorial relationship.

Inos asks Obama to reconsider ocean reserve expansion plan


CNMI Governor Eloy S. Inos is asking President Obama to reconsider the proposal to expand the Pacific Remote Island Marine Monument and other similar ocean reserves in the Pacific.

Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Arnold I. Palacios, who is also the chairman of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, earlier echoed the concerns of the U.S. fishery community on the marine monument expansion, saying it will impact U.S. tuna fisheries.

Although Obama does not want to include the Marianas Trench Marine Monument in the ocean reserve expansion plan, Inos believes that the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument expansion “is a first step in expanding other marine national monuments located in the western Pacific.”

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument encompasses Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll which lie to the south and west of Hawaii.

Inos told Obama in his Aug. 15 letter that “the proposed expansion is of great concern to us in the NMI, as well as those I have talked to in Guam, Hawaii and American Samoa.”

The expansion, the governor said, will impact Hawaii’s longline fleet, as well as the tuna cannery in American Samoa.

“Less obvious will be the continued gradual deterioration of Pacific Island culture and tradition as more waters in the western Pacific are taken out of sustainable use in the name of conservation,” Inos said.

“As governor, I hope you will appreciate my perspective on how implementing an advocacy-based conservation agenda under the Antiquities Act can negatively affect island communities in the Western Pacific,” said Inos who described the Marianas Trench Marine Monument as a “paper park that has been mostly neglected since it was designated in 2009.”

Then-President George W. Bush signed a proclamation on Jan. 6, 2009 designating the three northernmost islands of Maug, Asuncion and Parallon de Pajaros as part of the marine monument.

Inos told Obama that only after making a series promises in Dec. 2008 was the Bush administration able to gain some local support for the Marianas Trench Marine Monument.

But to date, Inos said, “most of those promises remain unmet.”

He added, “The unilateral top-down approach in designating marine monuments via the Antiquities Act for conservation purposes is an affront to Pacific Island Communities.”

Inos said: “Although we represent different island cultures, the common thread that binds us together is our island heritage, our strong cultural association with the sea, respect for the environment, and a belief in the sustainable use of natural resources. I find it ironic that the primary purpose of Congress for passing the Antiquities Act was specifically to protect the culture and heritage of Native American Indians. Now one hundred and eight years later, this same law is being used to threaten the culture and heritage of native Pacific Islanders.”

According to the governor, “Fisheries are very important to the economy of the NMI, especially due to its geography which puts it between 3 to 4 hours flying time from every East and Southern Asian country. We have a history of supporting U.S. tuna fisheries, including pole-and-line fishing, purse seining and long-lining. The continued loss of U.S. waters reduces the attractiveness to the CNMI of supporting these fisheries and industries. While other Pacific islands are actively developing their tuna fisheries with strong support from their governments, the U.S. appears to be more intent on arbitrarily closing commercial fishing ventures based on an East Coast conservation paradigm.”

On behalf of the affected communities in the western Pacific who believe in the sustainable use of marine resources, Inos told the president, “I urge you to reconsider your proposal to expand the boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument or any other marine monument.”

Island leaders oppose Pacific monument expansion

By Richelle Agpoon-Cabang

Marianas Variety 

More Pacific island leaders and many marine conservationists are expressing their opposition to President Obama’s proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

These include Gov. Eloy Inos, the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council, the governments of Guam and American Samoa each of which sent a letter to the White House expressing their concerns and strong objection.

Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-government organization, supports the expansion and said it has gathered more than 100,000 signatures of other supporters from around the globe.
In an interview, Pew’s director of the Ocean Legacy Project, Matt Rand, said he is optimistic about the outcome of their campaign.

“It is time for people to be aware and act to protect our marine natural resources,” Rand said.

But John Gourley, a longtime CNMI resident and a Marine conservation advocate, said the Pew campaign is bogus and deceiving.

He said Pew is using scientific studies on overfishing that were disapproved by environmentalists years ago.

The most recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the percentage of overfished stock went down from 10 percent to 9 percent last year.

Only two fish species within the Western Pacific ocean jurisdiction are under the overfishing list.

Gourley said Pew is “using general research to persuade the public to sign a petition which most signatories do not really understand.”

Pacific island leaders fear that their heritage and culture will be affected if the expansion proceeds.

A letter from the CNMI to Obama states: “What you may not know is that there is a growing resentment in island communities throughout the western pacific with the Antiquities Act and the unilateral approach used by a sitting president in designating [Marine National Monuments].”

The signatories include Gourley, former Sen. Herman R. Guerrero, president of the Northern Marianas Descent Corporation, Felix Sasamoto, president of Marianas Apnea Spearfishing Club, Ray Camacho of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council, Richard Seman of the NMI Fishermen Marketing Association, Benigno Sablan of Guihan Pasifiku, Tony Scragg of the Saipan Fishermen Association, Rosemond B. Santos of the KKMP Foundation, David Johanson of Marianas Sailing Club, Cecilia Selepeo of Guardians of Gani, Isidoro Cabrera of the Economic Research and Development Foundation, Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong of the Aghurubw Society, Juan Tenorio of the Tanapag Action Group and Cecilio Raiukiulipiy of the Marianas Water Operations Association.

For their part, the mayors of Saipan, the Northern Islands, Rota and Tinian told the president: “Slowly but surely the Atiquities Act is being used as the tool to close our marine waters to fishing and other extractive purposes for political reasons that have nothing to do with us…. We believe this monument expansion proposal is just the first step in expanding the Marianas Tench, Rose Atoll and Papahanaumokuakea MNMs.”

CNMI leaders also noted the unfulfilled promises that the federal government made to them when the commonwealth agreed to the creation of the Marianas Trench marine monument.

Among the promises were allowing the CNMI to co-manage the monument, the establishment of visitors park and a patrol vessel that was to be provided to the commonwealth.

In his letter, Governor Inos said the federal government failed to fulfill its promises.

Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo said: “A complete ban on nearly all activities is disproportionate to current management concerns and is in contrast to the direction given to the Pacific Islands regional planning body for which Guam is an active member…. I humbly request that the expansion of the current monument boundaries be tabled and further discussed with the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and that it be allowed to exist in perpetuity.”

In his letter to the White House, American Samoa Gov. Lolo M. Moliga said the expansion is “demoralizing and it is quite disturbing that the proponents for the expansion are individuals who have no basic understanding of what the expansion will do to the lives of the affected people.”

He said by not consulting other island territories, the White House “epitomizes the typical federal attitude that island residents whose lives are directly affected are not entitled to participate in the process of consultation to ascertain how they feel about the proposed measure.”

He added, “As a territory of the U.S., we have no vote on the floor of Congress, but we hope that as a person who grew up in the U.S. Pacific Islands, you will recall the intrinsic importance of the sea to the Pacific islanders, not only for their subsistence living but also for the economic survival of our islands. I implore you to please not expand the existing monuments or create new marine national monuments in the U.S. Pacific Islands.”