Friends of the Mariana Trench Welcome Opportunity for Community Participation in Ocean Conservation

(Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands) – The Friends of the Mariana Trench, a local organization dedicated to the conservation, preservation, and protection of flora, fauna, and geological features of the ocean, welcome the opportunity to comment on the draft management plan for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.

“Our islands, our ocean, and our culture are the tangible things we pass on to future generations,” said Representative Sheila Babauta, Chair of the Friends.  “Community engagement and local input will improve our stewardship of the Mariana Trench, and our organization is committed to working with our partners in local and federal government to ensure our voices are heard.”

The draft management plan and environmental assessment for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument was made available for public comment on February 24, 2021.  The 90-day comment period ends on May 25, 2021.

“We are the long-time stewards and owners of the Mariana Trench,” said Friends Vice Chair Franco Santos.  “We commend the work of the agency staff at CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources, NOAA Fisheries, and US Fish and Wildlife Service for giving the community the opportunity to have a voice in the management of our natural resources.”

The Friends of the Mariana Trench plan to provide expert commentary on the draft management plan and work with community members who wish to learn about and comment on the plan.

“We also plan to help community members submit their own comments, so that their individual voices are heard as a part of this process,” added Representative Babauta.

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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.