December 15, 2008
Council for Environmental Quality
722 Jackson Place, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Chairman Connaughton,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us during our recent visit to our nation's capital. We appreciate that you and others in the Administration are taking seriously the support of the local Northern Marianas people in your upcoming monument decision.
The issue of the proposed monument has engaged our community for more than a year. It has been debated several times in public, discussed, analyzed and argued over. Both sides have been on TV and the radio many times and more than 150 letters have been published in the local papers, most of them in favor by the way.
The Friends of the Monument and our allies have conducted over 115 public meetings with over 3300 people attending. We have also held uncounted individual discussions. You witnessed firsthand the widespread community interest and support at the CEQ-sponsored meeting. The 400 residents in attendance made it one of the largest public meetings in CNMI history. More than 60 of us gathered signatures on a petition in support of a marine national monument – which 6000 residents signed! That’s an unheard of number and dwarfs the 2300 votes of the top vote getter in the recent election for our first congressional delegate.
In addition, our allies and supporters circulated a business petition which was signed by 206 business owners and managers. The tourism industry and business community know what we believe to be true, that the monument will be an environmental crown jewel for the CNMI and the U.S., and will also boost our visitor industry and offer a significant contribution to the economy of the CNMI. With some work, it also will offer tremendous educational benefits to our youth and could help make the CNMI a hub for deep sea research.
A recent poll conducted by a class at the Northern Mariana College confirmed what we already knew from our public outreach: the public overwhelmingly supports the monument that has been proposed and discussed for over a year. In fact the poll showed that residents support the monument by an overwhelming 2:1 ratio.
What the people of the CNMI have accepted and endorsed is the monument as it was originally proposed, a very large no-take reserve that will put the CNMI on the international map (our Vision letter, dated October 15, 2008, is attached for your reference). We do not want weakened protections and we do not want the area designated to be reduced. In fact, as Andrew Salas conveyed to you over and over in our meeting with you, we would like the area of the monument increased!
To make ourselves perfectly clear, the people of the Commonwealth are asking President Bush to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate the largest no-take monument which would include the full Exclusive Economic Zone surrounding the islands of Uracas, Maug and Asuncion, encompassing the water column, the sea life and the geological features at the bottom.
As we have told you in person, we would like our monument to be the largest no-take reserve in the world. We ask that both commercial and recreational fishing be prohibited along with other extractive uses such as deep-sea mining. We believe the best use of the treasures in this region is as a protected zone for future use in research, tourism and education, not extraction. From the beginning of the proposal the only exception we have requested is a limited one for traditional subsistence fishing by the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands. Given the distance from Saipan and the small number of people who travel to these islands, we believe this limited exception to the no-extraction regulations would best be managed by the local indigenous people to ensure both that our rights are protected and this privilege is not abused.
The Friends of the Monument believe that the no-extraction area should extend to the entire EEZ so that it includes the full convergence zone of the Pacific Plate and Philippine Plate, including the seamounts, hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, submerged volcanoes, coral reefs, the famed Mariana Trench and all other sea life and habitat in-between.
These habitats, from the surface down to the deepest darkest place on Earth are all intertwined. Many bottom-dwelling creatures depend on the detritus "snow" from dead animals from above, while pelagic fish feed on smaller creatures sustained by deep sea nutrient upwelling. You cannot separate the bottom of the ocean from the water above it. They are all connected as one ecosystem.
We are asking the President to protect the entire ecosystem surrounding the three northern islands, much as President Theodore Roosevelt protected an entire ecosystem when he set aside 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon in 1908. And we are further asking that modest additions along the Mariana Trench be made to increase the area into the largest no-take marine monument in the world.
Thank you for your interest in the CNMI, for taking the time to learn about our beautiful islands and most of all for truly hearing our request. It is our grandchildren that will inherit that which we leave behind and we want what is truly best for them.
Ignacio V. Cabrera
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Their are many different creatures living on our very own waters. There are so many different Spices such as Tonguefish, mussels, bumphead parrotfish, megapodes, white tern and many more. we have one of the most rarest beaked whales, such as Cuvier's beaked whale and blainville beaked whale, that are believed to reside around our very own islands.
I honestly think this is a very good opportunity for research and other educational reasons.
as a young adult I know that my friends and family can take advantage and learn a lot about our islands waters and the creatures that lives within. Crabs and Angler Fish are but few of the many species of the Mariana Trench. Another interesting characteristic of these deep sea creatures is their longevity; many of these animals having a lifespan of over one hundred years, provided of course that they do not end up in fishing nets.
The Mariana trench can be a big laboratory in which many scientists, students and other interested people can learn and discover many facts.
Their have been ups and downs with the Papahanaumokuakea Monument, but we are able to learn from their mistakes and maybe even become a better and improved monument area.
We can also obtain the many benefits that the Papahanaumokuakea Monument have by agreeing to have a monument up in the Northern Islands.
For more information on the Papahanaumokuakea visit this link
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The ocean is a home for many different living things from micro organisms to large mammals and fish. They are being endangered and threatened by over fishing, pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction.We have to make sure that our waters are safe and clean in order for these animals to live in it. The oceans are really important for both our sea creatures and us humans as well. We obtain a lot of food and resources from the oceans, but we must set aside protected areas of our oceans to improve from past threats. We must have a home in which animals can increase and grow bigger. Setting aside large areas from fishing can help the animals grow larger again. Limiting fishing areas can help protect our ecosystem and the animals that live in them.
By Lisa Ling
There is no animal on earth more vilified than the shark. Pop culture references and annual, over-hyped reports of attacks on swimmers or surfers have put sharks on the top of the list of the world's most feared living things.
There is however, a creature far more predacious than the shark: Humans.
Sharks existed before there were dinosaurs and they pre-date humans by millions of years. Yet, in a relatively short period of time, humans and their technological arsenal have driven most shark populations to the verge of extinction.
This is bad news for the world's oceans. Sharks are the top predator in the ocean and are vital to its ecosystem. The rapid reduction of sharks is disrupting the ocean's equilibrium, according to Peter Knights, director of WildAid International.
"These are ecosystems that have evolved over millions and millions of years," said Knights. "As soon as you start to take out an important part of it, it's like a brick wall, you take out bricks [and] eventually it's going to collapse."
When sharks attack humans, it inevitably makes news - it is a sexy story. What is rarely reported is that worldwide, sharks kill an average of 10 people every year. It's usually when people venture into a shark's habitat and not the other way around. By contrast, humans kill around 100 million sharks every year - a number that has ballooned in recent years because of the enormous demand for shark fins to make shark fin soup.
Shark fin soup is a delicacy reserved for the wealthy on special occasions and it has been part of Chinese culture for centuries. For years, only rich Chinese mostly in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore consumed it, so the impact on the overall shark population was negligible.
Over the last decade, the exploding middle class in China has changed the fate of the shark. With an unprecedented number of people making more money than ever, the demand for all things that signal an improvement in status is gargantuan. The ability to serve and consume shark fin soup is among the most revered of activities, because it signifies that one has made it.
Shark fin soup can be expensive. A bowl of imperial shark fin soup can cost upwards of $100. These days, shark fin soup is so fashionable that it's becoming commonplace. Buffets serve versions of it for as low as $10 a bowl. The irony is that shark fin is flavorless -- its cartilage has a chewy consistency. Tens of thousands of sharks are being killed for a gelatinous thing in a soup.
To satiate the appetites of upwardly mobile Chinese, fishermen traverse all corners of the Earth's oceans in search of sharks or, more specifically, their fins. Because space is limited on fishing vessels and shark bodies are bulky and not considered as valuable, fishermen often catch the sharks, saw off their fins and toss the sharks back into the water. Without their fins, sharks cannot swim and they sink to the ocean floor, where they're picked at by other fish and left to die.
The "Planet in Peril" crew traveled with Knights to Taiwan's southern port city of Kaohsiung, which is considered one of the world's main hubs for shark fins. We watched as the fishermen unloaded their catch. Thousands of fins were thrown from one of the ships that had spent months fishing the international waters of the Pacific.
Because of the sensitivity over this issue, few people were willing to talk to us.
Shark finning is not illegal. Taiwan has no law against fins taken from international waters coming into its ports. However, Taiwan does have what it calls a "plan of action" that requires the bodies of the sharks the fins came from to be accounted for and not dumped into the sea.
But at this port, we see more fins than bodies as a forklift scoops up large piles of fins and dumps them into a truck. There are no signs of anyone monitoring the weight ratio or making sure there's no illegal fishing of the five shark species protected under international treaty.
"The laws are weak and when you take the fins off, identifying these species is almost impossible," Knights said. "You can see they all look almost identical and yet they're makos and threshers and blue sharks; there [are] all kinds of species there, but identifying them and monitoring them and having a regulated fishery is virtually impossible."
Taiwan is not alone. Shark finning thrives off weak regulations around the world and only a few countries demand that sharks arrive in port with fins attached.
Knights says it comes down to economics.
"The fin is one of the most expensive pound-for-pound item from the sea. And the beauty about the fin is that it's very compact ... it doesn't take up your hull and you can make a lot of money from it," said Knights.
Fins can sell for $500 per pound, according to WildAid, which is campaigning for a global ban on shark finning.
In recent years, Cocos Island has become another battleground in the fight to save the shark.
Located 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, the only way to get to this uninhabited islet in the eastern Pacific is by boat. Cocos Island, recently declared a national park, is a nearly pristine and richly preserved ecosystem where thousands of sharks have roamed for centuries. Scientists think there are more sharks there than any other place on Earth.
Fishermen come from all over the world to catch the sharks that swim around the island. It is illegal for fishing boats to get within three miles of the island, but the law is routinely ignored. On any given day, one can see numerous fishing boats no more than a mile away from the island.
The fate of the shark is grim. Increasing public awareness of the shark's role in the marine ecosystem and the rapid rate of extinction because of the demand for shark fin soup may be the best hope for the shark, which has inhabited the planet for 400 million years.
"Can you imagine if it was Yellowstone Park and people were shooting up grizzlies? No one would ever get away with it. But this ocean, because it's out of sight, out of mind, [shark finning] carries on," said Knights.
By Lisa Ling
Monday, December 15, 2008
- Global recognition of a phenomenal underwater environment alongside the Mariana Trench—the deepest place on the globe and one of the natural wonders of the world.
- An unparalleled opportunity to protect a diversity of oceanic habitats including tropical coral reefs, seamounts, and deep canyons.
- Protection of a unique global scientific laboratory to study acidification and impacts of carbon dioxide on the ocean.
- Preservation of the diverse, healthy, and largely unexploited—and thus scientifically valuable—fish populations in this area.
- Creation of the second or third largest no-take marine reserve on the globe, after the new monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, complements the three northernmost islands' protected status as nature reserves under the Commonwealth constitution.
- Support for the Commonwealth tourism industry.
Friday, December 12, 2008
They say the pen is the strongest weapon. With a pen President Bush can approve to have a Marine Monument here in the CNMI. With the Antiquities Act President Bush is authorized to "protect vast stretches of U.S. territorial waters from fishing, oil exploration and other forms of commercial development. The initiative could also create some of the largest marine reserves in the world — far larger than national parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon."
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Will Bush's big environmental push be thwarted by bureaucrats?
by Christopher Pala / 12-10-2008
President Bush is under strong criticism for using his last weeks in office to promote hard-to-overturn influential regulations that, far more than those of his predecessors, appear tailored to benefit favored industries. But another kind of 11th-hour effort has garnered much praise, including two editorials in the New York Times: his Blue Legacy project.
Similarities in style between anti-monument letters from Saipan and from Wespac-affiliated officials in Hawai’i have led some monument proponents to wonder if all were drafted at 1164 Bishop Street, the agency’s seat.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"The islands, atolls, and seamounts that would be conserved are remote. But they may also represent unique opportunities for research. In addition to its reefs, a northern Marianas reserve would include a section of the Marianas Trench, formed by the collision of two plates of the Earth’s crust and home to the deepest spot on the seafloor. The area hosts 19 species of whales and dolphins. Life thrives in the extreme environments around hydrothermal vents. The seascape includes enormous mud volcanoes and pools of boiling sulfur."
By having a monument we can have many opportunities for research. We have one of the deepest trench in the world. By using our resources we can provide a lot information for research and for many people interested in marine biology.
"The Line Islands, meanwhile, are feeding stations for migratory fish with an unexpected twist on the traditional food pyramid. “It’s an amazing inverted pyramid design,” in which most living organisms sit atop the food chain instead of at the bottom, says Nancy Knowlton, a marine scientist with the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History. Although organisms lower on the food chain are fewer, they reproduce more quickly and so can support a relatively large number of diners. The system gives researchers a good baseline to understand what coral-reef systems used to look like, she says."
"The Line Islands also serve as a way station for 21 species of migratory birds and some 19 species of seabird, who come to feed as large fish on a feeding frenzy drive their prey to the surface. “This shows a direct ecological connection between land and sea,” notes William Chandler, vice president for government affairs at the Marine Conservation Biology Institute office in Washington."
We have many different species living in our waters that exist anywhere else. We also have other animals that are living and migrating near the three Northern Islands, which means even more research.
"The effort is drawing support from the tourist industry, who see the region’s reefs as an asset that needs to be safeguarded, as well as from conservation groups and marine scientists.
But the proposal has generated its share of concerns. Some supporters worry that conservation measures won’t be tight enough."
Not only is this good for research, but also for tourism, education, and our whole economy itself.
Two years ago, President Bush won high praise from a group that's been largely critical of him: environmentalists. They were elated after the president declared a huge area near Hawaii a protected marine monument.
The White House is now trying to secure the president's place in ocean history with a similar preserve elsewhere in the Pacific. Only this time, the political sailing isn't so smooth, and the administration may be scaling back its ambitious plans.
The heart of the new marine monument would be in U.S. territorial waters north of Guam — the Northern Mariana Islands.
Ike Cabrerra, from the island of Saipan, is one of just a handful of people who have ever made it to the north end of the island chain.
"There's no place in the world compared to this area," Cabrerra said. "Most of the islands are volcano."
A Plea For Protection
The waters are rich with undisturbed sea life and home to some of the world's most majestic underwater geology, including the deepest canyon in the ocean, the Mariana Trench. But all is not perfect in paradise. While locals like Cabrerra support a marine preserve, their elected officials do not.
So Cabrerra traveled to Washington to lobby for the protected area. His traveling companion, Andrew Salas, said the politicians don't object to conservation, but they are upset with the federal government. It seems Uncle Sam recently took control of immigration policy for the Northern Marianas and also instituted the federal minimum wage.
"So this awesome idea to protect those islands came in at the wrong time, and everyone thought, 'Oh, another federal intervention,' " Salas said.
Salas and Cabrerra went to the White House this week to plead for complete protection for an area the size of Arizona. They brought with them petitions signed by businesses, schoolchildren and 6,000 local residents. The island only has 10,000 voters.
Salas said a protected area isn't just good for the environment, but tourism could boost local businesses like his. He owns the Hawaii Bar and Grill on Saipan.
"I'm actually going to change the name of that thing as soon as this thing gets declared. I'm going to make it the Mariana Trench Bar and Grill," he said.
But to declare complete success, the conservation group will not only have to trump the local politicians: Other interest groups have been marching into the White House with requests to argue against a fully protected monument.
Gordon Robertson of the American Sportfishing Association pleaded his organization's case: "Let's not make a designation and foreclose this recreational fishing right up front, because it is compatible with conservation and it is easily controlled."
The huge Hawaiian monument designated two years ago bans fishing. That did not sit well with Robertson.
"I would like to think that if that opportunity presented itself again, it would be done differently," he said.
The White House might not fully protect the area off the Northern Marianas, even though the place is so remote that there's essentially no fishing there.
The same could be true for other sites in the Pacific that the White House is also considering. The potential conflicts aren't just fishing, but include possible military uses, cultural activities, and mining and energy development, said James Connaughton, who's in charge of this issue at the White House.
"What we're trying to do is sort out where there are, in fact, some conflicting uses and sort out where those concerns don't actually exist," Connaughton said.
That could mean scaling back the size of some of the proposed preserves, or not offering complete protection everywhere.
Jay Nelson of the Pew Environment Group said so little of the ocean is undisturbed that he wants the White House to fully protect as much as it possibly can.
"They run the risk, if they start to listen to too many constituencies, of making essentially everyone unhappy," he said.
And, at this point, time is running short. Connaughton said that, in the end, he may hand off all the work he has done to the Obama administration.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
GELLERMAN: With just a few weeks left to his term as president, George W. Bush is seeking to burnish a blue-green legacy.
Two years ago, Mr. Bush put 140,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii, off limits to oil drilling and fishing. Now, the President hopes to protect another vast area of the ocean – this one 4,000 miles west of Hawaii. It includes three of the remote Northern Mariana Islands and the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the ocean – a gash in the earth's crust nearly seven miles down. The proposal has some influential supporters - including first lady Laura Bush - and prominent opponents. Among those trying to sink the President's plan to create this National Marine Monument is Vice President Dick Cheney, and nearly all of the elected officials of Micronesia.
But many residents want to win federal protection, including Andrew Salas, vice president of the organization Friends of the Monument. Mr. Salas, welcome!
SALAS: Thank you.
GELLERMAN: Which three islands are we talking about?
SALAS: Maug, Asuncion, and Uracus. The water surrounding those three islands.
GELLERMAN: So how many square miles we talking here?
SALAS: About 115,000.
Mr. Andrew Salas, vice president of Friends of the Monument and former congressman of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.
GELLERMAN: I gotta tell you, the one that was named two years ago is 140,000.
SALAS: That's the reason why we came to D.C. This is my first trip to D.C., and I want to ask the good president to please make it bigger than the Islands in Hawaii.
GELLERMAN: So how much bigger?
SALAS: Maybe an inch bigger. [LAUGHS]
GELLERMAN: So those are kinda bragging rights?
SALAS: Yes sir. Nobody ever remembers second place in the World Series or the second place at the Super Bowl. Always remember the champ.
GELLERMAN: Well how would that help the people of Northern Marianas?
SALAS: Well you know, you know, have you ever been to the Northern Marianas islands?
GELLERMAN: No, I haven't.
SALAS: Okay, we are very tiny island chains in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And we have a population that fluctuates anywhere between 50 to 80 thousand. We've become a minority in our islands. And because of the economic development that happened in our islands when we became part of the United States. And it would help us greatly because over the past few years we've become a place where, you know, CNN has reported us as being enslaving our guest workers, locking them up in their rooms and abusing 16-year-old waitresses. The reason why we want this thing to be larger is the fact that we can use it, we can rebrand it. We have a place called Marianas Visitors Authority that will go out and rebrand the commonwealth as the largest marine protected area in the world. So it would be a retooling of our ability to attract tourists to our commonwealth.
GELLERMAN: Mr. Salas, what would protection under this marine reserve do for the area?
SALAS: Well, for one, you know, those three islands are – they're about 300 miles from Saipan. Right now we don't have the means – it is protected by constitution, but we do not have the means to patrol that area and protect it. As a matter of fact, maybe seven or eight weeks ago, we caught a Taiwanese ship poaching in our waters. So, at the most basic, fundamental protection is at least to keep outsiders away from our islands and to stop poaching our fish in our waters. Look at what's happening with the fish stocks all over the world. This will provide an area where fish can be protected and when they get big they can lay an abundance of eggs and they can go out, outside the protected areas and everybody can benefit from it.
GELLERMAN: Strange – I mean here you've got Laura Bush and the President supporting this and they're being opposed by the Vice President Cheney.
Soft corals and tropical fish on the summit of an underwater volcano in the Mariana Islands.
SALAS: [Laugh] Well, it's not a perfect world, but we try our best, you know. The governor of the commonwealth thinks of this as another federal intrusion and it's not. In our possession today we have original copies of over 6,000 signatures from our people from our beautiful commonwealth that sign in support of this monument.
GELLERMAN: Mr. Salas, what was this place like when you were young?
SALAS: Ah, it was beautiful. And that's why we – you know, Beach Road is our main road, our primary road when I was growing up. And when the fish would come into the lagoon, our blue water became really dark. And every islander that was passing by, whether driving, bicycling or walking, all they had to do was come up to the beach and they get a coffee can full of whatever fish was in the lagoon. But now you gotta go miles to fish. And we're hoping that President Bush takes the time to make a bold move to declare it a marine monument so that the people of the commonwealth can have a place where young people can remember, like I remember, thirty years ago, forty years ago, about the beauty of our lagoon on Beach Road.
GELLERMAN: Well Mr. Salas, I want to thank you very much.
SALAS: Thank you sir. It was my pleasure.
GELLERMAN: Andrew Salas is vice president of Friends of the Monument – a group seeking protection for the Northern Mariana Islands.
1. A Marine Monument!
2. More jobs in the CNMI.
3. To have an increase in tourism.
4. To protect our marine environment.
5. Create a protected nursing home for marine life.
6. The college to have a NOAA science curriculum for ocean science from having a National Marine Monument.
7. Our people and our local culture support conservation.
8. The students to be well educated about our marine life.
9. To prevent over fishing.
10. To visit the Northern Islands.
Friday, December 5, 2008
An investor is already inquiring about long line fishing in the CNMI, he said.This venture follows in the footsteps of Crystal Seas, the bankrupt commercial longliner that just failed on Rota.
Last year, the Northern Marianas Fisheries Inc., expressed interest in a commercial fisheries project on Rota and Saipan.
The firm which also plans to work closely with the local fishermen’s cooperative, will bring two federally approved fishing vessels to the CNMI.
The local marine conservation plan recently approved by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will pave the way for the development of a CNMI fishing industry, which will include the Northern Islands’ remote fishing station project, Dela Cruz said.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Aha Moku who?
Much has been said about an Oct. 13, 2008, letter that was written to President Bush by a group of Hawaiians called the Aha Moku Council, asking him to not designate the Northern Marianas National Marine Monument.
This group is a creation of the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council. The Aha Moku Council is supposed to organize and consult with Native Hawaiians who represent their ahupua'a, a traditional land division system in Hawaii.
The Aha Moku Council has not yet organized, nor have they consulted with any of the Hawaiian groups representing their ahupua'a on Hawaiians taking a position on the creation of the Northern Marianas National Marine Monument and yet, at the urging of WESPAC, sent a letter, purporting to represent the Native Hawaiian's position.
The letter that states, “When you created the Papahanumokuakea National Marine Monument, it was done without the participation of Native Hawaiian people.” It further states the name Papahanaumokuakea “was the name the your administration picked for the Monument.
”This is typical WESPAC misinformation. The name “Papahanaumokuakea” was chosen by the Native Hawaiian working group of the North-Western Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council. This Reserve was the precursor to the Monument.President Clinton in an Executive Order, designated that three members of this Council should be Native Hawaiians, with one seat reserved for a Kupuna or elder. WESPAC, on the other hand, has no such requirement to have a Hawaiian on its Council.
The Native Hawaiian Working group met over the course of more than six months to consider several names for the Monument. The debate amongst Hawaiians was fierce but amiable, ultimately choosing Papahanaumokuakea. Hawaiians were at the forefront of the creation of the Reserve and continue to be consulted and have a place on the Management Board of the Monument.
The largest group of cultural practitioners in Hawaii, Ilio ula o ka lani, has demonstrated its support for the Monument by having representatives fly to Washington on numerous occasions and by attending close to a hundred meetings on the process. On one occasion, organizing a 10,000-person march on Waikiki to show support for the process.
Please do not allow the misinformation of the eight people on the Aha Moku Council, created by WESPAC, who have not consulted with Native Hawaiians as described in their organizational documents, to influence the people of the CNMI. Check out the facts, consider your needs and the future legacy that you leave for the children of the CNMI.
WESPAC has a direct state in the matter and that is the reason for the misinformation campaign. Should President Bush and the people of the CNMI approve a Monument, then WESPAC loses jurisdiction over fisheries in the Monument. For WESPAC, it's all about them, and not about you or the resources of CNMI. Don't be fooled!
William J. Aila Jr.