|Angelo of Maug on the shores of, um, Maug|
NOAA's ONMS is announcing that it is re-establishing the sanctuary nomination process and is proposing to amend its regulations governing the process for nominating and evaluating sites for eligibility as a national marine sanctuary. This action would replace the currently inactive Sanctuary Evaluation List (SEL) with a new process for local communities and other interested parties to provide NOAA with robust, criteria-driven proposals for new national marine sanctuaries. To implement this process, NOAA is seeking public comment on proposed changes to the sanctuary nomination and designation procedures, and on the criteria by which the agency would analyze nominations for potential new national marine sanctuaries. Once these criteria have been made final, NOAA intends to solicit nominations for areas of the marine and Great Lakes environments that satisfy those criteria for possible designation as a national marine sanctuary.You can comment using the federal e-commenting portal. Click on Comment Now! to add your voice. You write out your comment using the online form, upload a letter, and upload supporting documents. I've already added my comments, if you are so inspired to copy them.
I would hope that individuals and community groups would be allowed to put forth areas for consideration as potentional national marine sanctuaries. One excellent area NOAA should consider are the federal waters around the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. I've attached a report that explains some of the natural resources found there, including biological diverse coral reefs, marine mammals, sharks, and thermal vent communities. There are existing marine protected areas in federal waters that could be converted to National Marine Sanctuaries, as well as unprotected areas worthy of protection and management. With almost 1/2 million visitors to Saipan each year, a visitors center interpreting a new National Marine Sanctuary, as well as the existing national park, national wildlife refuges, and numerous local protected areas, would serve the local population as well as serve as a cornerstone of economic development for the tourism industry there. In 2008, 6,000 (out of 50,000) local residents petitioned the White House for a national marine sanctuary, so NOAA will find that there is a lot of local support for a new sanctuary.The report I reference is The Deepest Ocean on Earth: A Scientific Case for Establishing the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.