INDEPENDENT NEWS

Final Plan Released For Marianas Trench Sanctuary

Published: Fri 7 Jun 2024 07:35 PM
Mark Rabago, RNZ Pacific Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas correspondent
The final management plan and environmental assessment for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument has been released.
The Mariana Trench monument was part of a marine protection area announced by then-US president George Bush in 2009.
The Mariana Trench includes submerged active volcanoes and hydrothermal vents and the deepest point on earth.
Under the management plan, the US Fish and Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the CNMI will work as a monument management team to engage partners; conserve and protect the marine ecosystem; and establish stewardship, research, exploration, engagement and education programs that further understanding and connect people to the unique ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Shared learning and outreach activities will focus on providing traditional access and cultural use, developing locally relevant curriculum and educational opportunities about the unique environment of the Mariana Trench, and the sea life protected in it.
The plan provides the foundation for long-term collaborative management and community stewardship of the monument, where public and community involvement will be key to achieving the plan's vision and goals over the next 15 years.
Development of the plan advances the Biden-Harris administration's America the Beautiful initiative to restore, connect and conserve 30 percent of the nation's lands and waters by 2030.
US Fish and Wildlife Service director Martha Williams said it is a remarkable place.
"The incredible diversity of life that exists within the remarkably steep and deep ocean environments of the Mariana Trench, its hydrothermal vents and boiling waters makes this Marine National Monument an inspiring area worthy of our reflection and wonderment," she said.
"The Service and our partners at NOAA Fisheries are grateful for the perspectives, knowledge and collaboration of local and indigenous communities in determining the monument's management, improving our shared understanding and appreciation for its cultural and biological resources."
Located in the Mariana Archipelago east of the Philippines, the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument protects approximately 95,216 square miles of submerged lands and waters.
The Mariana Trench includes steep walls, distinctive geologic features, and deep ocean life forms. Mariana snailfish, deep-sea jellyfish, giant amphipods, and translucent sea cucumbers have found a home in this harsh environment amid shaggy bacterial mats.
The Mariana Arc of Fire National WR /Volcanic Unit - an arc of undersea volcanoes and thermal vents - supports unusual life forms in some of the harshest conditions imaginable.
Here species survive amid hydrothermal vents that produce highly acidic and boiling water. One of the coral reef sites in the Islands Unit of the monument has the highest density of sharks anywhere in the Pacific.
Assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries Janet Coit said the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument has long-standing ancestral and cultural connections to the nearby residents.
"From the early establishment of the monument, the local community and leaders in the Marianas have shared a desire to be involved with the monument.
"Their involvement has been important to the development of this management plan, and we are committed to working together to conserve and protect this awe-inspiring place."
The final plan establishes long-term guidance to achieve monument goals and objectives, which are derived from the Presidential Proclamations, federal mandates, and public input.
The 2009 Proclamation 8335 specified that monument management plans shall ensure the monument will be administered in accordance with the proclamation and shall provide for:ensuring traditional access by indigenous persons for culturally significant subsistence, cultural and religious uses; promoting scientific exploration and research; andproviding public education and outreach programs.
Traditional ecological knowledge will be part of the decision-making process and on-going management of the monument.
RNZ
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