In late 2007/early 2008, the goal was to extend conservation status to the waters surrounding Asuncion, Maug, and Uracus. In 2005, the Commonwealth Constitution designated these islands as wildlife refuges in perpetuity, but the protections stop at the shoreline. In our proposal, we asked President George W. Bush to protect the marine ecosystems surrounding the three northernmost islands of Uracus, Maug, and Asuncion as a marine national monument sanctuary, in accordance with the Antiquities Act of 1906 and that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through its National Marine Sanctuaries Program, be the federal agency that administers, co-manages, and enforces the monument, along with the (Commonwealth). As the eastern corner of our proposed area included a large portion of the Mariana Trench, we began referring to our proposal as the Mariana Trench Monument.
When the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM) was created in 2009, it established protection for protect 95,000 square miles of seafloor and waters in the Mariana Archipelago. This area—which is under federal jurisdiction—consists of three units: the Islands Unit, which protects the seafloor and waters around the three northernmost Mariana Islands, Farallon de Pajaros or Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion; the Volcanic Unit, which protects the seafloor surrounding 21 volcanic sites of exceptional scientific and conservation value; and the Trench Unit, which protects the seafloor east of the archipelago inside the US Exclusive Economic Zone from north of Uracas to south of Guam.
While the FOMT’s original proposal suggested the monument be administered by the US Department of Commerce’s National Marine Sanctuary program, the Bush administration’s presidential order placed the Department of Interior’s US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Department of Commerce’s NOAA Fisheries program in charge of MTMNM’s management in coordination with the CNMI. Fortunately, the FOMT have a developed a strong working relationship with the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge Service, who are tasked with enforcement and public outreach. The MTMNM is managed out of the NWRS complex located in Guam and by the NOAA and NWRS offices in Honolulu, HI.
Partners: Office of the Governor, Department of Interior’s US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Department of Commerce’s NOAA Fisheries program.