The Friends of the Monument formed in the Spring of 2008 to express the voice of the local community and consists of a cross-section of indigenous and resident people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who are dedicated to the conservation, preservation and protection of flora, fauna and geological features of the oceans; and the proper management of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. The organization was a recipient of the 2009 EPA Environmental Award for their community outreach work supporting marine protected areas.
In late 2021, the Friends of the Mariana Trench board, staff, and partners completed a 3-year strategic plan. Our key focus areas are research, education, and stewardship.
We one day envision that the federal and local government officials will co-manage the sanctuary. A permitting system would be ideal for controlling and identifying the specific vessels entering the sanctuary.
We aim to maintain the protection and preservation of the marine ecosystems and their interrelationship with land ecosystems and indigenous cultures; and their continued presence and existence in the future.
We understand that the Chamorro and Carolinian cultures and tradition must be treated with respect, and taken into full account in decisions that are made about the management and use of the sanctuary. Additionally, we hope to create a sanctuary advisory council that represents all people of the Northern Mariana Islands, beyond typical local government agency interest.
We believe that funding should be available to enable oceanography to be taught in schools, at the college and through lectures and programs for the public, ensure educational materials are available, careers in the marine and geological science encouraged, and opportunities for field trips for students, teachers, the general public and tourists be made available.
We want the researchers and scientists who base their work on the sanctuary and its environment be required to obtain permission prior to undertaking research in the area, and should share the information they garner with the local community and other capable sources. They should make accommodations to take along local students and teachers on research trips, so that students are encouraged to become scientists and researchers.
The Friends believe that the federal funding provided for the management of the sanctuary and the associated increase in visitor spending are much more suited to the CNMI’s image in the world and more productive of tangible benefits when compared to fishing. The increased flow of traffic from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to the sanctuary would also benefit the people of the CNMI in that it would make more feasible resettlement of the Northern Islands and provide transportation and communication with the “lower” Northern Islands.