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Wednesday, April 19, 2023
NOAA Comments Open: Designate 777,000 Square Mile Marine Sanctuary Near Hawaii
By News Release @ 2:12 PM :: 4184 Views :: Environment, Congressional Delegation, Small Business

NOAA considers sanctuary in waters around Pacific Remote Islands

Agency invites public comment on proposed sanctuary through June 2, 2023

News Release from NOAA, April 17, 2023

Today, NOAA announced it is starting the process to potentially designate a new national marine sanctuary in the Pacific Remote Islands area, as directed by President Biden and affirmed by the Department of Commerce on March 24, 2023.  

The proposed area in the central Pacific Ocean includes marine areas within the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, as well as currently unprotected submerged lands and waters, to the full extent of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, an area totaling about 770,000 square miles. Terrestrial areas are not included in the proposed sanctuary. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration and Department of Commerce are committed to bold conservation goals through the America the Beautiful initiative,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Sanctuary designation would bring to bear NOAA’s capacity and expertise in research and management of coastal and marine resources, maritime heritage and archaeology, and public education and outreach in order to protect the unique ecological and cultural resources of the Pacific Remote Islands.”

The atolls, shoals, seamounts, banks and reefs surrounding the Pacific Remote Islands are home to some of the most diverse and remarkable tropical marine ecosystems on the planet, and provide a haven for a host of wildlife, including corals, sharks, fish, marine mammals, seabirds and invertebrates.

“The Pacific Remote Islands ecosystems face persistent threats from hazards, such as marine debris, invasive species and climate change,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “Designating this incredibly important area as a national marine sanctuary would complement and strengthen existing efforts to preserve the region’s natural, cultural and historic values.”

Designating the proposed area as a sanctuary would add the conservation benefits of a national marine sanctuary to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument’s existing protections, and provide a stable management framework, a citizen advisory council and lasting protections that extend beyond the monument’s current boundaries. 

“The proposed sanctuary would also be an opportunity to recognize and celebrate Indigenous cultural connections to the lands and waters of the area,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “This region has a rich history, beginning with Pacific Island peoples whose proficiency with navigation and ocean wayfinding created a cultural network across the vastness of the Pacific.”

About the public comment period 

The public is invited to comment on the proposed sanctuary designation through June 2, 2023, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov, by searching for docket number NOAA-NOS-2023-0052. Comments may also be mailed if postmarked by June 2, 2023.

NOAA will host in-person public meetings, with an option to join virtually. During the meetings, NOAA will gather input on boundaries, compatible uses, threats a new sanctuary would address, how best to promote marine science and education initiatives and other topics as described in the Notice of Intent that NOAA published in the Federal Register. The input NOAA receives from the public will assist the agency with the preparation and release of draft designation documents, and in formulating alternatives for the draft environmental impact statement. 

A detailed description of the proposed sanctuary, based on the nominationoffsite link submitted by the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition, as well as additional information about opportunities to provide comment, can be found at https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/pacific-remote-islands.

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Remarks by President Biden at the White House Conservation in Action Summit

March 21, 2023 (excerpt)

… I’m issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Secretary of Commerce to immediately consider designating 777,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean southwest of Hawaii as a new — (applause) — as a new — new national marine sanctuary.

You know — (applause) —  that’s an area larger than Alaska and Colorado put together and three times the size of Texas.  That’s no small amount of land.  (Laughter.)  (Inaudible.)

It would make it the largest ocean area on the planet with the highest level of protection.  (Applause.)  And it will help us meet our goal of conserving — the goal I set when I got elected — of protecting and conserving 30 percent of our oceans.  (Applause.) 

It’s a network of islands and reefs where waters are filled with the — most of the diverse — the most diverse marine on the plan- — marine life on the planet: sharks, rays, marlins, tunas, turtles, whales, ancient coral forests — many that are threatened and endangered right now but won’t be.
And I want to thank Brian — Senator Brian Schatz and Mazie — Mazie, where are you?

SENATOR HIRONO:  Here.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.  (Applause.)  There — I want to say — (applause) — Mazie —

Representative — and Representatives Ed Case and Jill Kotuda [Tokuda] — (applause) — and many — and many Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander leaders — you know, look — who have worked tirelessly to protect our oceans.  I want to thank you. 

I mean, I genuinely mean it.  Thank you.  It wouldn’t have happened without you. …

read … Full Transcript 

RELATED: 

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Case Applauds President Biden's Commencement Of Marine Sanctuary Designation Process For U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Waters

Since May 2022, Case has urged the Administration to maximize protections for one of the last pristine marine environments on Earth

News Release from Office of Rep Ed Case, March 21, 2023

Honolulu, HI, March 21, 2023

(Honolulu, HI) – Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) today applauded President Biden’s direction to the Secretary of Commerce to initiate consideration of designation of the waters of the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands as a National Marine Sanctuary.

The action follows Case’s calls, commencing in May 2022 in partnership with the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition and others, for maximum protection of U.S.-owned and controlled waters surrounding the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands, including the Central Pacific atolls and reefs of Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Island; Johnston, Wake, and Palmyra Atoll; and Kingman Reef. (See Case’s attached letters to the President of May 31 and October 31, 2022, and March 10, 2023.)

“These waters are among the last pristine marine environments on our Earth, and also the most fragile,” said Case, a member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries who, during his prior service in Congress (2002-2007), also advocated successfully for creation of today’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

“Our world’s oceans are at mortal risk, a breaking point precipitated by the unsustainable overfishing and other resource extraction, debris and land-based pollution, exacerbated and compounded by the devastating and pervasive marine effects of climate change.”

Case continued: “The Pacific Remote Islands including their waters are not only a critical interlocking component of the broader Pacific marine ecosystem, but an integral part of the historical and cultural ties of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific as well as a key source of scientific knowledge on the preservation of a sustainable ocean environment. As a nation, we have a duty to ensure the long-term survival of the PRI’s ecological, scientific and cultural value. This process will do just that and will achieve the marine protection goals of President Biden’s America the Beautiful Initiative to protect thirty percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.”

Parts of U.S. Pacific Remote Islands waters were designated as a National Marine Monument by President Bush in 2009 and expanded by President Obama in 2014. Case, working with the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition, has urged designation of all of the waters surrounding all of the PRIs to the full extent of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as a new Sanctuary, especially for the currently unprotected waters surrounding Howland and Baker Islands, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef. The Coalition, which has been working toward expansion since 2014, says a Sanctuary designation would add some 265,000 square miles of highly protected waters, resulting in the creation of the world’s largest highly protected marine area (MPA) in national waters at some 777,000 square miles, an area larger than Alaska.

As a follow-up to his initial support in May and October 2022, Case recently penned a letter to President Biden, which urged the President to incorporate the following crucial protections as guidelines for a Sanctuary designation:

1.       Any potential marine sanctuary study areas should include the entire area of the existing monument plus the expansion areas around Baker and Howland Islands as well as Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef.

2.       Any directive should include a strong purpose statement with clear goals and objectives consistent with the comprehensive conservation provisions of the current PRIMNM to ensure any subsequent monument expansion or national marine sanctuary designation supplement, complement and enhance the current high levels of protection of the monument across the entire EEZ.

3.       The process should result in a sustainable management regime that includes co-management by indigenous peoples.

4.       An advisory council should be formed to provide guidance.

5.       The renaming process and final decision on names should be pursued in a culturally appropriate framework.

The Sanctuary designation process directed by the President will include opportunities for public comment. The President is also directing the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a public process to work with the Indigenous communities of the Pacific to appropriately rename the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and potentially the Islands themselves, and to provide posthumous recognition for young mostly Native Hawaiian men sent to secure U.S. territorial claim to the islands in the run up to World War II, as remembered in the 2010 award-winning documentary, “Under a Jarvis Moon”. 

Attachments: Case letters to the President calling for designating the PRIs as a National Marine Sanctuary

SA: Biden wants largest marine sanctuary in Pacific

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