The Declaration for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument mandated a management plan be developed and published in 2011. Marine protected areas have been shown to only provide biological and social benefits when they are implemented and funded, and this cannot happen without a management plan.
(2011 to present)
When the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM) was first declared in 2009, it was slated to protect 95,000 square miles of seafloor and waters in the Mariana Archipelago. This area, 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 the 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, much to our surprise, 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.
While we were grateful to see the Marine National Monument designation achieved, we grew concerned by the lack of movement by either managing body to complete the MTMNM’s management plan, which was due within the first two years of the monument’s formation. In May of 2011, four months after the final deadline for completion of MTMNM’s management plan, USFWS published their first update regarding the plan.
(https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Mariana_Trench/what_we_do/planning.html). They released a second planning update in February of 2012, and a third in March of 2013. In 2014, USFWS published their fourth planning update, which included a schedule for a Visitors Center Working Group public listening session, published fishing regulations, and draft goals.
After a series of public hearings held in 2015, USFWS finally created a draft management plan and delivered it to Governor Torres in January of 2020. Additional public hearings surrounding the draft plan were originally scheduled for mid- to late 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic has made next steps uncertain.
Partners: Office of the Governor, Department of Interior’s US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Department of Commerce’s NOAA Fisheries program.