Where is the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM)?
Situated to the south and west of Hawai‘i, the PRIMNM is a collection of islands and atolls, including: Howland Island, Baker Island, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll and Wake Island.
When did the Pacific Remote Islands become a Monument?
In 2009, George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument with protections to 50 nautical miles. In 2014, President Obama expanded three out of the five sites, Wake, Johnston and Jarvis, from 50 to 200 nautical miles from shore. Taken together, the expanded boundaries protect 490,000 square miles of ocean prohibiting all commercial fishing and deep sea mining, while allowing for sustainable recreational and noncommercial fishing.
The PRIMNM makes up one of the last places on Earth with an unsullied, healthy, thriving ocean ecosystem. The islands and atolls provide a refuge to many species of marine mammals, sharks, sea turtles, fish and seabirds.
The expansion specifically increased protections to include approximately 132 additional seamounts or undersea mountains. Scientists estimate that up to 44-percent of the species on a seamount or seamount group are found nowhere else on Earth.
PRIMNM includes migratory paths and feeding grounds for five species of protected turtles, including the endangered leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley turtles.
The expansion area provides foraging habitat for several of the world’s largest remaining colonies of sooty terns, lesser frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, red-tailed tropicbirds, and other seabird species. Many of these wide-ranging species make foraging trips of 300 miles or more from their colonies on the Monument’s islands, atolls, and reefs.
What's the history of PRIMNM?
Many Hawaiians feel kuleana (responsibility) towards the Pacific Remote Islands. Known as the Hui Panala‘au, 130 young Hawaiians were sent to the islands of Howland, Baker, and Jarvis on occupation “tours” between 1935 until 1942. Two of these men, Richard Whaley and Joseph Keli‘ihananui, lost their lives on Howland Island in a Japanese attack on Dec. 8, 1941. The colonists allowed President Franklin Roosevelt to secure U.S. territorial claims to the islands, which became an important base during WWII.
Wake Atoll was designated a National Historic Landmark because of the battle that took place there also starting December 8, 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Features include U.S. defensive structures, historic shipwrecks, features related to American prisoners of war, among other important artifacts and memorials. Forty-five Chamorro men from Guam were working on the island on the day of the invasion. The survivors of the battle were taken as prisoners of war and were imprisoned for the duration of the war.
In April 2017, President Trump signed two Executive Orders (EOs) instructing the Department of Interior (DOI) and Department of Commerce (DOC) to conduct a review of national monuments. Executive Order 13792 instructed the DOI to review 27 of the 57 National Monuments designated since January 1, 1996 (including all five marine monuments); while Executive Order 13795, among other provisions, called for the DOC to conduct a review of all National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments in relation to increasing energy exploration.
In August 2017, former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke submitted his final report to the President (made public in December 2017), stating: “Comments received were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments.” The final recommendations nevertheless included allowing commercial fishing operations in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and to change the way the area is managed.
Why does it matter if commercial fishing is allowed in Monument waters?
The longline fishing industry catches and kills large numbers of marine animals, including sharks, albatross, sea turtles, and even marine mammals like dolphins. In 2016, for example, the Hawai‘i-based fleet set more than 48 million baited hooks total while fishing for bigeye tuna, and caught about 100,000 sharks while doing so.
The world’s fisheries are already 90% fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted. Leading marine scientists agree that at least 30% of the ocean needs to be set aside in marine reserves to protect fish populations and keep ecosystems healthy. With no residents and a thriving marine ecosystem, the Pacific Remote Islands is an ideal place for such protection.
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