US plans to reduce size of three marine parks

US marine parks

The Trump administration’s plan to shrink four land-based national monuments has provoked howls of anguish from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some businesses, such as the outdoors company Patagonia.

Accompanying changes to protected monuments in the oceans – vastly larger areas than their land-based counterparts – have received less attention, but could have major consequences for the livelihoods and ecosystems dependent upon the marine environment.

Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, has recommended to Donald Trump that three sprawling marine monuments, one in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific, be either opened up to the commercial fishing industry or reduced in size, or both.

“These ‘blue parks’ harbor unique species, a wealth of biodiversity and special habitats,” said Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration between 2009 and 2013.

“They are undersea treasures. I fervently hope that these incredible marine monuments will not be degraded by opening them up to extractive activities. There are plenty of other places in the ocean to fish.”

Protected Areas

In 2009, George W Bush created the Pacific Remote Islands national monument around seven islands and atolls in the central Pacific. The monument, subsequently expanded by Barack Obama to become what was the largest marine protected area in the world, comprises “the last refugia for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet”, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service, boasting creatures such as sea turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks and giant clams.

Zinke noted that the monument, which spans more than 490,500 sq miles, protects largely untouched coral reefs and marine species but also pushed out Hawaiian and American Samoan fishers who previously used long lines and huge scoop-like nets in the area. The interior secretary said the monument should be shrunk to an unspecified new shape and allow regional authorities to oversee commercial fishing in the monument.

Trump has been handed similar recommendations for Rose Atoll, a 10,000 sq mile ecosystem in the south Pacific that was protected in 2009, with Zinke adding there is “no explanation” as to why there can’t be commercial fishing in America’s only protected area of the Atlantic, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.

Combined, these marine monuments encompass an area more than three times the size of California – dwarfing the four terrestrial monuments set to be resized. But the land and sea monuments share common arguments over conservation, resource extraction and the role of the federal government to restrict certain activities in prized ecosystems.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

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