Friends of the Mariana Trench Encourage Community Involvement

The Friends of the Mariana Trench invite the community to learn about the proposed national marine sanctuary and to participate in the five-year review process.  The comment period was recently extended an additional 45 days at our request, and our community has until April 25 to learn about the proposed sanctuary, and to help determine whether our waters continue to meet the criteria of National Marine Sanctuary designation.

The sanctuary nomination was made in 2016 at the written request of Governor Torres and Delegate Sablan, but the official nominating documents were written and submitted by the Friends of the Mariana Trench, with support from Angelo Villagomez, a Chamorro conservation advocate who lives and works in Washington, DC (Angelo is the son of the late Justice Ramon G. Villagomez).

The 2016 nomination is available online and the Friends encourage the public to review it.  The great thing about the five-year review process is that it allows for edits to be made to the nomination.  During the first comment period, the Friends compiled changes suggested by the community, engaged with Chamorro scientists to review, and document new science in our waters, and submitted them to the federal government on March 3.  That letter can be reviewed in the News Feed on our website or at this link:

Most of the changes were small, but we made 3 overarching changes: (1) We want to change the name of the sanctuary to reflect our cultural heritage, and to help avoid confusing the sanctuary with the monument, which is a different federal initiative, (2) We stressed the importance of co-management of the proposed sanctuary at the governance, management, and advisory level, and most importantly (3), we want to celebrate our proud fishing tradition and are not proposing any restrictions to our local boats.  We are, however, explicit that we do not support fishing by foreign vessels in our waters, a position informed by our interactions with family and the community.

Now that the comment period has been extended, we have the opportunity to make additional edits.  And with the help of Mr. John Gourley’s public outreach efforts, we have already identified one important edit: We want to change the language around proposed permitting for vessels.  We do not want there to be permit requirements for local boats, but when foreign researchers or billionaire adventure seekers come into our waters, we want our local people to know about it, and we want local people to have the ability to restrict their activities if they are harmful.  Again, this position is based on conversations we have had with friends and the community.

The Friends of the Mariana Trench is a grassroots organization based on Saipan and consists of indigenous women and men. We appreciate the interactions we’ve enjoyed with our community through last year’s outreach events such as DCRM’s Ocean Fair Saipan & Rota, The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument Management Plan Watch Party Saipan & Tinian, Taste of the Marianas, Hafa adai – Tirow Summer Jam, Project Liffang and at the recent International Women’s Month event at the NMI Museum. In addition to conducting our programs funded through our 501c3 status, we strive to be present at community events to provide outreach on our projects and programs, our monument, our organization, and our vision – Healthy Oceans, Healthy Communities. We aim to provide the latest information on our website so that our community can be informed and aware of the available opportunities to get involved. Everyone is welcome!

The fastest way to reach us is to call or send a WhatsApp message to (670) 483-3668 or send us an email at We are very responsive. If you haven’t seen the public announcement by NOAA Sanctuaries, please be advised that there will be a virtual meeting hosted by the Federal Government on Thursday, March 31, 2022, from 12pm to 3pm ChST.  The Friends encourage the public to register and attend. You can register here: