|Look at all those seamounts!|
I've spent most of the last three months in Saipan talking to the community about the proposal to create a Marianas Trench Marine National Sanctuary, and one of the questions I get is why has nothing happened in 8 years? Now, I've been working on this a lot over the years, so when I hear this, I take a deep breath, and start talking about everything that has taken place. I decided it would make sense to put some of these things down on paper, so that I can easily share it.
This is going to go to design to make it pretty, but here's a basic outline of the last 10 years of the Marianas Trench. It's pretty long, and actually leaves out a lot, including the legislation that Kilili introduced to put a sanctuary visitors center on Saipan, competing legislation that would put it on Guam, the meetings of the advisory panel, the politics to name the advisory panel, the visitors center workshops, the government meetings to develop the draft management plan, and I'm sure several other things. Like I said, it's an outline. If something is missing, leave me a comment and I'll plug it in.
Pew travels to Saipan and Guam and meets with government officials, conservationists, and fishermen.
Pew travels to Saipan and meets with CNMI DLNR Secretary and Office of the CNMI Governor.
Pew hires staff on Saipan.
Pew presents proposal for Marianas Trench Marine National Monument at the Office of the Governor.
Friends of the Marianas Trench forms and begin collecting petitions in the community.
Bush Administration announces comment period for possible ocean protections.
Pew releases “The Deepest Ocean on Earth: A Scientific Case for Establishing the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.”
Bush Administration officials visit Guam and Saipan and hold public hearings. Friends of the Marianas Trench publish their Vision Statement, with six goals related to Management and Enforcement, Culture and Tradition, Conservation, Education, Research and Exploration, and Economic Development.
Friends of the Marianas Trench deliver 6,000 signatures in support of a monument to Bush White House. Barack Obama elected as the 44th President of the United States.
Marianas Trench Marine National Monument declared. It protects over 95,000 square miles of seafloor and waters in the Mariana Archipelago under federal jurisdiction. 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 (EEZ) from north of Uracus to south of Guam. The Department of Interior US Fish & Wildlife Service and Department of Commerce NOAA Fisheries programs are named the lead management agencies.
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to Delegate Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan asking him to introduce legislation that would: “(1) transfer the monument to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries; (2) extend the existing boundaries to include the northern waters; and (3) close the entire monument to sustenance, commercial and recreational fishing (continuing to allow traditional indigenous fishing) as outlined in our Vision Statement.” The letter also addresses submerged lands issues, and offers a solution that was eventually accepted as a compromise between the federal and CNMI governments.
Governor Fitial writes to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar opposing Friends of the Marianas Trench suggestions, but asks for “prompt implementation…of the visitor’s center for the Monument.” The letter notes that the Department of Commerce National Marine Sanctuary program is not the monument’s manager.
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco to ask her to begin a sanctuary designation process in the CNMI.
Dr. Lubchenco replies with a negative.
Delegate Kilili writes to CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Dr. Ignacio Dela Cruz to inform him of an $220,000 appropriation from the US Congress to be used “for educational programs on marine sanctuaries.”
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco again to ask her to begin a sanctuary designation process in the CNMI. The letter points out that the deadline to appoint an advisory council has passed, and that no progress has been made to development a management plan for the monument.
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to Delegate Kilili to request that the $220,000 appropriate be used to develop and design a Marianas Trench Visitors Center, “resulting in a workable, concrete architectural plan and plans for hands-on exhibits, an aquarium, areas for scientific presentations, and other community interactions.”
Dr. Lubchenco again replies with a negative, but promises that the NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office will “explore ways that we can better develop a partnership with the CNMI government..(and) assist the CNMI in meeting some of its goals in marine protection, education, and research.”
USFWS publish their first planning update on developing a management plan, four months after it was supposed to be finished.
Request for Proposals for bids to conduct visitors center design plan goes out from CNMI government.
USFWS publish their second planning update on developing a management plan, announce dates for public scoping meetings.
James Cameron becomes the third human to descend to the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
Barack Obama elected to a second term.
USFWS published their third planning update on developing a management plan, which includes comments and questions received and their responses.
Report on visitors center completed by Herman B. Cabrera and Associates. The $144,950 report suggests it will cost nearly $1/2 million to retrofit the Navy Hill Lighthouse to be usable for a visitors center. The report does not include any plans for exhibits, or renderings of a possible visitors center. The report recommends another location be used for a visitors center. The Friends of the Marianas Trench are disappointed with the cost and the content of the report. $47,419 of federal dollars were returned unused.
Friends of the Marianas Trench write to Matt Brookhart to support the re-establishment of the nomination process for new national marine sanctuaries.
Delegate Kilili writes to Acting NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan to request an assessment to manage the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument as part of the National Marine Sanctuaries network.
Dr. Sullivan responds by writing that she has “asked ONMS and NMFS to develop a plan for greater ONMS involvement in the MTMNM.” She also encouraged the delegate and his staff to “continue working with NOAA on providing effective management for the MTMNM.”
USFWS publishes their fourth planning update on developing a management plan, includes a schedule for Visitor Center Working Group Public listening session, published fishing regulations, and draft goals.
Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres and Delegate Kilili write to President Obama requesting designation of a marine sanctuary.
Donald J. Trump elected as the 45th President of the United States.
Friends of the Marianas Trench submit a nomination to begin the designation process for a marine sanctuary. The monument management plan has still not been put forward for public comment.