We Support “No” to 57% But Say “Yes” to Research & Education

The Friends of the Mariana Trench were asked to respond to claims that we are trying to close 57% of the EEZ around the CNMI. It’s not true. The Friends are focused on research and education. We are happy to share our 3-Year Strategic Plan where you can see our priorities. If you want to learn more, please visit our website (, message us on WhatsApp (670-483-3668), or send us an email ( with your concerns and we will happily provide you with any information available to us.

The current public comment period is to identify whether there are any changes to the 11-criterion set forth by NOAA Sanctuaries. The Friends asked a Chamorro marine science Ph.D. candidate to look at the science completed around the Mariana Trench since 2009. The findings are significant and deserve to be considered for additional research opportunities. The Friends are not proposing any closures to indigenous access with the EEZ nor changes to existing fishing regulations. We do, however, believe that the proposal supported by Governor Torres and Congressman Kilili accepted by the NOAA Sanctuaries Office in 2017, should remain on the inventory list for future possible designation which would bring ocean and marine science research and education resources to the people of the Marianas.

We believe in the preservation of our culture. Our people have always lived off our lands and waters. We have always understood that the land and ocean can provide sustenance for our families. It is our honor to perpetuate this legacy. We want our children to inherit abundance and we believe that conservation management of our resources done correctly can provide for them indefinitely. We believe in providing support to allow traditional knowledge to coexist with Western-style research and the recording of research science findings. Through this model, we can share our knowledge and translate culture into research outcomes which will, in turn, provide our youth with the skills to maintain the gifts that our islands have provided to us for generations. We believe that science and research can be beneficial in helping us to carry our best practices forward.

We request that NOAA Sanctuaries keep the Mariana Trench nomination in the NOAA Sanctuaries inventory. Moreover, we look forward to participating in the designation process, should it occur at some point in the future. The following points are of utmost importance:

  • Our geographical location is unique, however, our indigenous scientists’ capacity in our own home is limited. We want to see support for our people to practice science for our people and community
  • Our people have practiced conservation for 3,000 years. Revitalization of traditional practices in support of our livelihood is prime
  • We are passionate about blending our traditional practices with Western-style science research to effectively manage our natural resources now and for our future generations
  • It is imperative that the people of the Marianas will be given equal co-management of any federally designated sanctuary spaces
  • Equally imperative is that the sanctuary designation is not a decision between governments but is a community-developed conservation space
  •  We do not have any substantive changes to recommend for the nomination, but we do believe that the community should make any decisions that involve fishing and that the federal government should honor this. We support fishermen/women in our community who want to maintain access and fishing rights
  • We strongly believe that the sanctuary name should be changed to reflect our indigenous peoples and not those who have colonized our islands over the last 500 years

To learn more, watch this video.