In 2009, President George W. Bush designated three marine monuments in the central Pacific - totaling over 193,000 square miles - to be protected.
The three protected areas include the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa, and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (see map below).
The three Pacific Monuments extend protection to nearly 200,000 square miles of unique natural resourcesIn 2009,, it was the largest act of marine conservation in history. Image source: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/Graphics/MNM/small_MNM_map.jpg
Yet, our government has done just that. Despite the fact that the three marine monuments have existed now for over three years, both NOAA and Fish and Wildlife Services have failed to establish regulations for the ban on commercial fishing within these areas. Without an effective ban, these areas continue to exist as "paper parks" - protected in legislation, yet unenforced in reality.
President Bush's 2009 designation of the Pacific Monuments recognized their ecological, scientific, and cultural importance. Image source: http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/explore/images/DP_001957.jpg
Responding to the government's failure to act, the Marine Conservation Institute presented the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior with a petition asking both Secretaries to take immediate action in banning commercial fishing in the three designated marine monuments in the central Pacific, and setting a penalty schedule for those who fail to abide.
"Over three years later, the fishing ban and associated penalties for illegal fishing within the monuments have yet to be put into place," explained William Chandler, Vice President for Government Affairs at Marine Conservation Institute. "As a result, and despite evidence of illegal fishing in the monuments, the Coast Guard won’t enforce the ban."
Citing the Antiquities Act of 1906, the petition's aim is make a legal argument which would compel the government to finally enforce the protection of the marine monuments implemented by President Bush three years ago.
Without proper enforcement, these biologically diverse and culturally important areas remain highly vulnerable to the biological and environmental threat of commercial fisheries. Thus, it is imperative that the government act swiftly in protecting the marine monuments of the central Pacific.