Amata Raises Concerns About Massive New 777,000 Square Miles of NMS Around the Pacific Remote Islands
Executive Action Ignores Local Indigenous Consultation
News Release from Rep Aumua Amata, R-AS, March 23, 2023
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata is raising urgent concerns about President Biden’s initiation of an enormous new National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) for 777,000 square miles around the Pacific Remote Islands. She questions why the administration made no effort to discuss this issue with the Pacific delegations or to notify us even at the recent IGIA forum that such a drastic change to our way of life was even being considered.
See the full letter here.
“What changed? Why were we not given the courtesy of a discussion or even advance notice of this policy?” she asked in a letter Thursday to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I strongly oppose any new National Marine Sanctuary designations in the Pacific, especially ones that are implemented by executive order without consultation with native Samoans and other Pacific Islanders who have cared for and relied on these waters for millennia. This action would destroy American Samoa’s fishing industry, which makes up about 80 percent of our local economy, contribute to regional food insecurity, and do nothing to address the predatory IUU fishing practices of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Presidential proclamations created PRIMNM initially, then tripled it in size, placing over 495,000 square miles of the Pacific off limits. Now, President Biden is setting in motion yet another huge expansion or new NMS designation to 777,000 square miles, some four times the size of California, a detrimental action to American Samoa and U.S. food security, with the perverse effect of mainly benefiting China’s fishing fleet.
“I also cannot see how destroying the economy of the southern-most U.S. territory and declaring vast sections of the Pacific unfishable for our neighbors in a time of strategic competition with China will help our diplomatic efforts in the region. This action is especially more concerning given that our law enforcement efforts and U.S. Coast Guard presence in the region are limited. This action is tantamount to the federal government tying our hands while CCP fishing vessels rob our house,” Congresswoman Amata said.
“This expansion is also unprecedented, as no regional and local actors were even consulted before the President’s announcement. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC), which is authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to make fishery-management decisions for the PRIMNM, was similarly left in the dark. Essentially, the Administration replaced the regional mechanisms in place to ensure that local equities are weighed with a White House tweet.
“The Administration’s action in the Pacific continues a reckless pattern of abuse of the Antiquities Act to rope off millions of acres of lands and waters with a dangerous disregard for the people who rely on these areas or even enforcement mechanisms to ensure no one else benefits from these closures. As has been well put by Senator Mike Lee, whose state had 1.3 million acres declared as the Bears Ears National Monument despite local opposition, this constitutes a ‘midnight monument spree’ that disregards the will of the local populations. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo also decried the national monument declaration in his state as a ‘federal confiscation’ that will ‘cost Nevadans for generations to come.’ The same is true for American Samoans, who could see their economy destroyed by this federal confiscation of waters without respect to our wishes,” she continued.
“In short, this action seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to placate environmental activists who are hostile to, or at the very least ignorant of, the ways of life of people who actually live in the Pacific. As one of the most senior elected officials from the Pacific region, I implore you and the Administration to reconsider this brash policy action that benefits the U.S. in no way while paving the way for CCP fishing companies to extend their reach into the Western and South Pacific.
“I urge you to consult with our Governor and our industry stakeholders to find reasonable ways to bolster conservation efforts, strengthen American Samoan fishing, and address our national food security. The Administration must allow the WPFMC to do their job under the law and manage the waters under its jurisdiction with buy-in from regional actors, as former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended during his tenure. The Pacific needs proper fishing management instead of outright and unfair fishing bans in our own waters.
She concludes, “I have spent my life in the region. I have grown up in these waters. I cannot sit idly by while the country that American Samoans love mortgages their future for absolutely nothing in return. American Samoans are not against conservation; in fact, our ancestors have been the chief custodians of these very same waters for centuries. We have been doing conservation work since before we became part of the United States. What we do oppose, however, is conservation by confiscation without consultation, and without regard to the local economic impacts. I urge you again to reconsider this dangerous policy.”
UCN: Biden orders expansion of Pacific national monument against regional council’s advice