Federal Partners Announces Series of Open Houses on Potential Marine Conservation Areas

October 1, 2008

Washington, D.C. – The federal government has organized a series of open houses to discuss the advisability of providing additional recognition or protection to the historic and scientific qualities of three specific marine areas in the Pacific. These public discussions were scheduled in response to President Bush’s memo to members of his Cabinet asking them to assess and recommend the appropriate future course in these three marine areas. The open houses are open to the press.

As part of the assessment process, the agencies will work collaboratively with the public and interested parties to gather information. These open houses are not formal public comment sessions, but rather will use a round table format to engage the public in a conversation about the scientific, historical and cultural resources of the areas and the potential for further recognition, protection, or need for more coordination in management of areas in the Pacific. Information and comments received at these open houses will be taken into consideration for the final assessment.

In addition to the open houses, comments can be submitted via e-mail to oceans@ceq.eop.gov, via mail to Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, 722 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20503.  Comments can also be dropped off at the visitor center of the National Park of American Samoa at Pago Plaza in Pago Pago, American Samoa, between 8 am and 4:30 pm weekdays; and the visitor center of the American Memorial Park, Beach Road, Garapan, Saipan, between 10 am and 5 pm Wednesdays through Sundays. To be considered in the final assessment comments must be received no later than October 26, 2008.  Additional information may be found at online.

The areas under review are: In the central Pacific, coral reefs, pinnacles, sea mounts, islands and surrounding waters of Johnston Atoll, Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Wake Island; in American Samoa, Rose Atoll and adjacent waters; and in the Western Pacific, marine waters around the northern islands of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, including the Mariana Trench.

The areas under consideration are home to objects of historic and scientific interest that may be appropriate for protection and improved conservation and management under available authorities. Examples of possible authorities that could be used include: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, National Marine Sanctuaries Act, or the Antiquities Act.

The president has a longstanding commitment to ocean conservation and preserving our oceans for future generations. In 2004, the president issued his Ocean Action Plan to promote an ethic of responsible use and preservation of our oceans and coastal resources. The Ocean Action Plan identifies 88 activities to further ocean conservation including commitments to promote coral conservation and education, enhance conservation of marine mammals, sharks and sea turtles, improve marine managed areas and preserve the nation’s maritime heritage. This administration has met or is on schedule to meet all Ocean Action Plan commitments, and more than a quarter of the existing actions have activities that have “moved beyond” the initial commitments.