The Friends of the Mariana Trench wrote to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries today to formally request a 30 day extension to the public comment period for the 5 year review of the proposed national marine sanctuary in the Mariana Islands.
“We think our community needs some additional time to understand the small changes we made to the nomination,” said Joleen Salas, senior staff of the Friends of the Mariana Trench. “First and foremost, we do not seek any changes to how our fisheries are currently managed. Second, we want to focus our proposed sanctuary on our cultural heritage, and not the Mariana Trench. And third, co-management with our local government and inclusion of our Indigenous peoples in management is mandatory.”
“We were very intentional not to make any recommendation on where the sanctuary should be located because we feel that it should emerge from the community, not just from us,” said Salas. “The Friends is confused about the statements surrounding the 57% closure, we have no idea where this came from and we want to get to the bottom of this. We back the community in wanting to clarify this.”
The Friends found the first public comment period to be helpful as several important issues were raised by community members.
“The elders in our community that I’ve spoken to are passionate about research and education to benefit younger generations. Fishermen have also expressed they want to be able to pass our proud fishing tradition down to future generations without the complications of a permit process and we agree with them.”
The Friends submitted an 18 page comment letter highlighting how the water surrounding the Marianas meet or exceed the criteria to be recognized as a national marine sanctuary (https://www.regulations.gov/comment/NOAA-NOS-2022-0005-0014). All comments are available for review on the Federal Register. The Friends encourage the community to share comments or concerns.
The ocean is our oldest ancestor and the ultimate provider. It is a source of sustenance, a place of celebration, and a pillar of our traditions. Through the ocean we are connected across our islands and across time — to those who came before us and those yet to come. As an island people, it is a blessing to be able to rely on the ocean in more ways than one.
“We support and encourage community participation. We are available to assist with the commenting process and guide you to helpful resources,” said Salas.
“We are the descendant caretakers of our surrounding ocean. The ocean is our inheritance. It is our responsibility to participate in its management.”
Please visit the Friends website at FriendsMarianaTrench.org, or message them via WhatsApp at (670) 483-3668 or email at info@FriendsMarianaTrench.org.