Friday, December 30, 2016

Scientists From Across the Globe Support Marianas Trench UNESCO Nomination

Dr. Andrew Thaler (left) with Saipan Southern High School My Wave President Reynafe Aniga (center) and Rick MacPherson (right).
Early this December, the National Park Service announced that the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument made the short list for UNESCO World Heritage designation. Though hidden beneath the water’s surface, the Mariana Trench, a unique geologic and ecologic landmark and a natural treasure, dwarfs the Grand Canyon in scale and scope.

Yesterday, a cohort of 55 members of the deep-sea research community, representing 46 institutions and 19 nations, delivered a letter in support of the nomination.

“The Marianas Trench is one of the most well-known and spectacular geological features on the planet,” said Dr. Andrew Thaler, who recently visiting the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. “Global recognition is long overdue.”

The Mariana Trench is more than a mile deeper than Mt. Everest is high and hosts Challenger Deep, the deepest point on Earth. It is also home to numerous sites of exceptional scientific value, including submerged volcanoes that host deep-sea hydrothermal vents, the largest documented mud volcanoes, coral atolls and fringing reef ecosystems that support apex predators like sharks and whales, as well as habitat-forming stony corals.

The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument would be the first World Heritage site to include unexplored ecosystems, including geologically active sites that promise new species, scientific discoveries, and insight into biological processes in the deepest ecosystem on earth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

LIVE from Underwater World of Guam

Rick MacPherson and Dr. Andrew Thaler gave a talk on conservation, science, and the Marianas Trench at the Underwater World of Guam on December 18, 2016.  Here's some poorly shot video of the talk:

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Marianas Trench Sanctuary

There is a story in the Marianas Variety today regarding the Marianas Trench.  I've noticed that over the years the archives of the local Saipan newspapers tend to get deleted, so I'm posting it here in its entirety, both for your reading pleasure and posterity's sake:
Rota lawmakers ask US to designate marine sanctuary process for Marianas Trench monument

MEMBERS of the Rota Legislative Delegation have introduced a resolution asking the U.S. to develop a marine sanctuary process that will strengthen protections for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Signed by Rep. Glenn Maratita, Sens. Teresita Santos, Paul Manglona, Steve Mesngon, Rota Legislative Delegation Commemorative Resolution 19-10 states that the monument, which was created by President George Bush in Jan. 2009, provides permanent protection for approximately 95,216 square miles of submerged lands, waters and deep sea in the Pacific Ocean.

The Marianas waters have been scientifically determined to be the single greatest marine priority for conservation in U.S. waters, the resolution says, adding that the threat of climate change makes protection of the monument a priority for the CNMI.

According to the resolution, the monument’s protection would benefit Northern Marianas residents who rely upon an intact and preserved marine ecosystem for cultural uses such as ocean voyaging.

“The president of the United States has been asked to initiate a marine sanctuary designation by Gov. Ralph Torres and Delegate Gregorio Camacho Kilili Sablan. [But] the existing management structure of the Mariana Trench Marine Monument does not prioritize educational programs and a visitor center….

“The Rota Legislative Delegation respectfully requests that sanctuary management plans include and highlight research, education, enforcement and visitor center elements particularly on the island of Rota.”
As this story develops, I encourage you to watch and share this video of the 20 minute poster session for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument from the IUCN Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii back in September.  It features several speakers from the federal management of the monument and Angelo Villagomez from The Pew Charitable Trusts talking about the culture of the monument:

 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Advisory council urged to make visitors center a reality

The Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council finally adopted its long-awaited bylaws in governing the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument yesterday, even as concerned citizens and even a member of the council urged it to make the promised visitors center a reality.

Department of Land Natural Resources Secretary Arnold Palacios said that since the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library hosted a forum on the monument, he has received a number of comments criticizing the council for the lack of updates on the visitors center.

Palacios, along with Ben Sablan and Frank Rabauliman, make up the CNMI’s representatives on the council.

Palacios said there’s been a lot of backlash from the community on the slow pace of economic benefits the federal government promised when former President George W. Bush declared the Marianas Trench part of its Blue Legacy.

“There’s been a lot of promises made to the community but so far we’re not able to pull it off…We should do it and, if not, let’s just fold camp and go home,” he said.

NOAA deputy regional administrator Lisa Croft shared Palacios’ sentiments, saying the council should now work together to make sure that the commitments made by the federal government is followed.

She also acknowledged that a lot of promises and commitments made by the federal government have been broken.

The council held its second meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan and among those who attended were Sablan, Rabauliman, Palacios, Department of Defense representative Roy Tsutsui, and representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and other local and federal agencies.

In the comments portion of the meeting, former representative Rosemond Santos described the designation of the monument in 2011 as “modern day colonialism.”

She said the local community, especially the indigenous people of the CNMI, were not consulted when President Bush placed under federal protection 95,216 square miles of submerged lands and waters in various places in the Mariana archipelago as part of his Blue Legacy.

Cultural historian Genevieve Cabrera, meanwhile, urged the federal government to talk to the community instead of making decisions and policies behind their backs.

“If you show respect then respect will be shown back to you,” she said.

Another former lawmaker, William Torres, also told the council to consider the Northern Marianas College as the location of the monument visitors center.

Attaching the visitors center to the local community college would allow it to apply for federal grants and these will be a much-needed financial boost to NMC, he said.

The CNMI Legislature came out with a joint resolution in April, urging the council to designate Marpi as the site of the visitors center because of its easy access to tourists and residents alike.

Recently, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) made known his preference for the visitors center to be on Rota, to make the island the ecotourism hub of the Commonwealth.

Architect Herman Cabrera just finished a study that plans to use the old Japanese lighthouse on Navy Hill as the site of the visitors center.

Published in the Saipan Tribune

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obama Set to Punch Donut Holes in Bush's Legacy

The United States House of Representatives today passed a bill conferring submerged lands to the Commonwealth and delaying two year's worth of increases in the federal minimum wage.  S.256 passed 415-0.  The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate and now heads to President Barack Obama's desk.

This law, once signed and enacted, opens the most biological diverse region of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument to commercial fishing until such time that the Commonwealth government extends the constitutional protections for the islands to the newly conferred territorial seas.

Government leaders who have called for co-management now have to show they were serious by implementing legislation to protect this important area.  There is nothing to co-manage until such time the area is protected.

The Friends of the Monument called on Delegate Kilili to include co-management language in his bill; the call went unheeded.