Saturday, March 18, 2017

Inventory List

For the last 10 years I've been one of the advocates for bringing the NOAA Sanctuary program to the Northern Mariana Islands.  The archives of this blog catalogue most of that journey, including our two year attempt to use the Antiquities Act to protect the Mariana Trench, and the four times we petitioned the Obama Administration to create a national marine sanctuary in the Marianas.

We've had failures, and we've had success, and everything seems to take longer than it should, but that journey took a significant step forward last week when NOAA Sanctuaries accepted the nomination from the Friends of the Mariana Trench to designate a Mariana Trench National Marine Sanctuary and placed the nomination on the list of sanctuary inventory -- areas that have the criteria to be national marine sanctuaries and that are eligible to go through what is called a sanctuary process.

A lot of people in Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam, not to mention Washington, DC and Hawaii, were involved in this accomplishment, and they all deserve to be recognized.  We also need to explain to the community what this means and what the steps moving forward will be.  The governor and the delegate issued a joint press release, and singled out Ike for recognition.  That's quite an accomplishment, and much deserved.

Discussing the Mariana Trench National Marine Sanctuary in December with some folks.  Also, we're eating chicken kelaguen in this photo.
Northern Mariana Islands Governor Ralph DLG Torres and U.S. Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) announced yesterday significant progress on their joint effort to have the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument declared a National Marine Sanctuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has now placed the Monument on the national inventory for possible sanctuary designation.

Torres called the decision “an important step toward realizing the benefits promised to the people of the CNMI during the formation of the Marianas Trench National Monument.

“The federal government declared our unique marine resources a national treasure and we must pursue avenues for federal resources to ensure adequate conservation for future generations and the promised benefits for our people,” the governor added. “I thank Congressman Sablan for his collaboration on this effort and look forward to continuing to work alongside him to ensure that promises are fulfilled and our people realize tangible benefits from any future designation.”

Sablan said, “NOAA’s decision to list the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument as an area that can be considered for sanctuary status is a significant step toward the goal the governor and I articulated in our joint request to NOAA last year.

“I want to thank the governor for his willingness to work together in this way to realize the economic, environmental, and cultural potential of the Marianas Monument,” said Sablan.

“And I congratulate all of the other leaders and activists in our community for the success of their efforts to have the Monument placed on the sanctuary inventory by NOAA.”

Torres and Sablan began their effort with a joint letter to President Obama in September 2016, requesting initiation of the multi-year process to consider sanctuary designation for the Monument.

“Overlaying a Sanctuary designation to include the marine areas of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument would advance the goals of both the National Marine Sanctuary Act and the original objectives of the Monument proclamation,” they wrote. “It would also support the conservation values, practices, and aspirations of the people of the Marianas and our nation.”

This joint, bipartisan approach by the Marianas leaders helped spur broad community support for the idea of sanctuary designation. In December 2016, Friends of the Marianas Trench, led by Ignacio Cabrera, filed a petition with NOAA nominating the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument as a National Marine Sanctuary. The nomination package included letters, resolutions, and signatures of support from local legislators, mayors and 1,500 residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

Placement on the NOAA inventory means that the agency has determined that the nomination successfully met numerous criteria, including ecological, historical, cultural and archaeological significance; economic uses; need for conservation and management of threatened resources; and broad-based community support.

Now that the nomination has been placed on the inventory, NOAA may consider it in the future for designation as a National Marine Sanctuary. Sanctuary designation is a lengthy process that is highly public and participatory. For more information on the sanctuary designation process go to

Torres and Sablan have agreed to continue working together and to urge NOAA and the new Trump administration to keep the process of adding sanctuary status to the existing Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

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