From Marjorie Zeigler on August 8, 2014:
Aloha, everyone! Mahalo nui loa to all who attended NOAA’s Town Hall Meeting on the proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument on Monday night. Many of you asked me how the meeting went, so here is a brief summary. It was quite a scene with approx. 200+ folks in attendance (NOAA anticipated 100 at most). The meeting room was too small, of course, and it was standing-room only in the room and hallway. More than 60 people testified. Additional people signed up to testify, but they left before the meeting ended. More people testified in support of the proposed expansion than in opposition. All of the testimony was recorded and will be summarized and submitted to NOAA officials and, presumably, President Obama. Folks from Kaua‘i, Moloka‘i, Maui, and the Big Island flew over to testify in support of the expansion. Supporters included scientists, Native Hawaiian practitioners, fishers and descendants of fishing families, conservationists, community leaders, and youth. Attendees were polite (with a few exceptions), and the meeting went smoothly, ending at 7:30 pm. A coalition of supporters hosted a nice hospitality room with ‘ono food, refreshments, and coffee. It was fun meeting and talking story with fellow supporters from across the state. Mahalo nui loa to our hosts.
Now is the time for everyone to weigh in, whether you live in Hawai‘i, elsewhere in the Pacific, or on the continent. We have until this Friday, August 15, 2014 to submit written comments to NOAA in SUPPORT of expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument out to 200 nautical miles. This is an amazing natural area – a wonderful living ocean legacy for our children and future generations. The proposed expansion is a huge positive step for the U.S. Some individuals and large commercial interests are contacting NOAA to express their opposition to the proposed expansion. All of us must submit our comments in strong SUPPORT if this is going to happen. Don’t sit this one out!
Please sign the online petition, sign one of the online letters (whichever applies), and, most importantly, email NOAA brief comments in SUPPORT. All the links are below. It will only take a few minutes, and it will make a positive difference. Then share this email widely with others. Apologies for duplicate postings. Mahalo nui loa for caring and taking action!
1. Sign the online petition to President Obama in support of the expansion at <http://bit.ly/SupportPRIMNM> Your signature is needed, and it only takes a minute.
2. Sign one of these group letters to President Obama in support of the expansion:
- Letter from Pacific scientistshttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/1S84_RIvkR52sAuW3U_I5z3TkJvg3Stbd2CWif_U6mOM/viewform?c=0&w=1
- Letter from Hawai‘i businesseshttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/1U5YjtpOaDTOVHm21Sg7ymm1hV81K390FoWQ17UkDNA0/viewform?c=0&w=1
- Letter from Hawai‘i non-profit organizations https://docs.google.com/forms/d/14BbXIK_AkCXs0F2XRGksZbL-oM4h5qEiDvCGe7jSUAE/viewform?c=0&w=1
- Letter from individual Hawai‘i residentshttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/14aM0oQPpydTP4hFRSVV0YID2d4t3JpHftgeGepsZfeU/viewform?c=0&w=1
3. Email your own personal comments to NOAA in support of the expansion <PRI@noaa.gov>
The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was established by George W. Bush in 2009, and is located within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The monument covers approximately 83,000 square miles in the south-central Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands. It encompasses seven islands and atolls: Wake, Johnston, Baker, Howland, Kingman, Jarvis, and Palmyra.
On June 17, 2014, at the Our Ocean conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama announced his intention to expand the existing boundaries of the monument to 200 nautical miles, the full expanse of U.S. jurisdiction in these waters.
Global Significance of the Expansion:
- The expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument includes some of the richest areas on earth for ocean life, home to countless seabird, marine mammal, fish, sea turtle, coral, and other marine invertebrate species.
- Large predatory fishes, such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, and sharks, are still found in these waters, even though their populations have been significantly depleted in the past 50 years.
- Five species of protected sea turtle also inhabit these waters as migratory and feeding grounds, including the leatherback turtle, which is near extinction because of human activities.
- The proposed area is habitat for 22 protected marine mammal species, including the Hawaiian monk seal, blue whale and a new species recently described by scientists – the Palmyra beaked whale. Seven of these marine mammal species are endangered.
- Several million seabirds of 19 species congregate around or nest in the monument. These birds forage in the waters surround the current monument out to 200 nautical miles and farther, feeding themselves and their chicks.
- These waters are of global and regional ecological importance for marine mammals, sea turtles, large predatory fish, and seabirds. These are highly migratory species that range widely throughout the tropical central and western Pacific. Because many of them congregate around seamounts, the additional protection of 241 seamounts in the expanded monument would be significant. Equally important would be protection for corals and invertebrate communities.
Complementing Other Marine Conservation Initiatives:
- In 2010, the nations of the world agreed to set aside 10 percent of the world’s ocean in protected areas by 2020 (one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets). Many scientists and marine conservationists estimate that to ensure the health and productivity of our oceans and marine fisheries, at least 20-30 percent of the ocean needs to be protected in fully protected marine reserves.
- Leaders around the world, but particularly from countries and territories located in the still relatively pristine Pacific Ocean, are moving to protect large and critically important ocean environments. The U.S. should do its part and similarly protect a measurable portion of its own ocean territory.
- Earlier this year, Palauan President Tommy Remengesau announced his intent to fully protect 80% of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
- The Cook Islands have created a no-take marine reserve 50 miles around the southern islands in the archipelago.
- The U.K. government is considering full protection of the Pitcairn Islands’ EEZ in the South Pacific (322,781 square miles), which would become the largest fully protected marine reserve on Earth.
- President Anote Tong of Kiribati announced the creation of a no-take marine reserve to protect over 154,440 square miles surrounding the Phoenix Islands. He has also indicated his intent to establish a no-take reserve around the Southern Line Islands – the southern counterpart to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument atolls.
- Even with these significant designations, most of the ocean, and most of the Pacific Ocean, remain open to extractive activities including fishing and mining.
Why the Expansion is Needed:
- The world’s oceans are threatened by overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, climate change, and invasive species.
- The existing monument is insufficient in size to fully protect the many species that live inside the monument and range outside. Expansion to the EEZ limit would enable far greater protection and provide a vital refuge for protected and vulnerable/endangered marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds from longline fishing interaction in the Pacific Ocean.
- There is no scientific or ecological rationale for only protecting only out to 50 nautical miles from the islands and atolls, which is the current limit. Protection to 200 nautical miles would benefit significantly more of the entire ecosystem and help ensure its long-term viability.
- An estimated 90% of all large predatory fish worldwide have been wiped out. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 90 percent of global fish stocks are overfished or fully-fished according to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014.
- Research shows that fully protected marine reserves are essential to rebuilding species abundance and diversity, and increasing resilience to climate change. Hundreds of leading scientists agree that fully protected – or “no-take” – reserves are critical for reversing the decline of the marine environment and restoring it to health.
- Currently less than 1 percent of the ocean is protected in no-take marine reserves.
- Highly controversial drilling and mining operations are being planned in similar areas of the Pacific under other nations’ control, imperiling priceless living marine resources living there. The proposed marine monument expansion would protect the Pacific Remote Islands and atolls from potential future industrial development, including drilling or mining.
Minimal Impacts of the Expansion:
- The islands and atolls are uninhabited other than a small military operation; they have been uninhabited for most of their history. The islands, atolls, and waters around them remain some of the most undisturbed areas on the planet, and their protection would affect very few current users. No subsistence fishing or gathering occurs in the area. A miniscule amount of recreational fishing is allowed and is restricted to specific places or by special permit. This fishing could continue with minimal impact.
- The U.S. distant-water commercial fishing fleet, based in Hawai‘i, is the only industry currently operating in this area, and they fish near the edges of U.S. jurisdiction. Since Hawai’i-based tuna fishing vessels catch on average only 5 percent of their fish within the proposed monument area, the expansion will have minimal impact on them. In addition, tuna and other offshore species migrate seasonally across the Pacific, which means that fishermen could recoup the small amount of lost harvest in other areas. The fleet could replace the catch by making small shifts in fishing activity, thereby conserving this entire set of remote areas as marine wilderness.
- Protecting these essential ocean habitats and species may actually benefit fisheries, since marine reserves can help replenish some depleted fisheries. This occurs through increased reproduction within reserves, larval distribution, and fish spillover that benefits adjacent, unprotected areas. The fish that are protected in marine reserves are likely to grow older and larger and produce more young that seed adjacent areas open to fishing.
- Restricting fishing in the marine monument is akin to the traditional Hawaiian kapu system, where take was forbidden from closed reef areas. Traditional ecological knowledge and Western science both document the benefits of no-take areas for preserving marine resources.
- There is an operational U.S. military base on Wake Island. Wake Island is strictly off-limits to non-military personnel. Military activities and the right of “innocent passage” are permitted within the existing monument.