Photo: Hatsue Bailey / NOAA
In response to Secretary of Interior Zinke’s recommendations to President Trump to allow commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Rose Atoll and Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monuments, Turtle Island Restoration Network, a leading ocean conservation organization, condemns this reversal of public lands protections.
“Allowing commercial fishing back into protected marine areas is advancing the clock on extinction,” said Peter Fugazzotto, Strategic Programs Director. “Our marine national monuments – 65 million acres – are already under constant threat by plastic trash, nonnative species, and the effects of climate change. If Trump implements these recommendations, we may rocket forward on the path to lose the sea turtles, the whales, and the diversity of the oceans which sustains all life on Earth.”
The monuments at risk are critically important habitat for a wide array of marine species.
Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (55.6 million acres)
Some corals at the monument are up to 5,000 years old. Home to sea turtles, dolphins, whales, pearl oysters, giant clams, coconut crabs, large groupers, sharks, humphead wrasses, and bumphead parrotfishes.
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument (3.1 million acres)
The canyons and seamounts provide habitat for protected species such as endangered sperm, fin, and sei whales and Kemp’s ridley turtles.
Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (8.6 million acres)
Important nesting sites for the threatened green and endangered hawksbill turtles in American Samoa.
Commercial fishing practices are extremely detrimental to marine habitat and marine species. These marine national monuments were created and expanded to prohibit commercial fisheries, thus providing important protected areas for endangered migratory species like the Pacific leatherback sea turtle.
For the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, populations continue to decline due to death and injury when they get captured in commercial fishing gear, such as longlines and drift gillnets.
The inevitable result of these rollbacks will be a return to coral reef destruction, overfishing and lethal bycatch of threatened and endangered species that occurred prior to each marine national monument designation.