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Pacific Tuna Industry Prepares to Fish US Marine Protected Areas

Industrial fishing interests in the Pacific Ocean have requested that President Trump open four national marine monuments to commercial fishing.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council sets the fishing seasons and annual catch limits in the western Pacific. Also known as WESPAC, the council told the president that “quick action is urgently needed” to meet “exceptionally high retail demand” for canned tuna as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The request from the council arrived in Washington a day after Trump signed an Executive Order promoting American seafood competitiveness and economic growth and competitiveness of the U.S. seafood industry. A statement by NOAA, the agency that regulates US fisheries, added this plan will propel the United States forward as a seafood superpower by strengthening the American economy.

In 2018 President Trump directed Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior to review all national monument designations on federal public land since 1996 that are 100,000 acres or more in size. According to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post September 19, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that President Trump modify 10 national monuments created under the last 3 administrations, shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites, and three marine monuments. The final revised report has been released recommending reduction in 7 National Monuments and three marine national monuments.

Although challenged in court by Tribal and Environmental groups, mining and deforestation are currently occurring in the Bears Ears and the Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah, green-lighted by the Whitehouse. Until this year, the Government’s movement to strip protection on other National Monuments has been idle.

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument consists of Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll which lie to the south and west of Hawaii. These islands host some of the most abundant and diverse marine life in US waters and many endangered species not found elsewhere. This action could potentially impact over 1 billion acres of natural and cultural treasures on public lands and oceans that have been protected by presidents of both political parties, including one of the world’s largest marine protected area.

Reef shark swims over coral, Palmyra Atoll

Removing this protective status will place America’s most loved natural and cultural areas at risk to logging, mining, oil exploration and fishing. Under the Act, only Congress has the clear authority to reduce or nullify a monument designation, not the president. Show your support for our National Monuments and maintain their current status established by the 3 past presidents to protect our natural and cultural heritage.

Fishing interests claim the protected regions are negatively affecting tuna catch. Earlier this year, a team of economists and scientists published a study in Nature that found the monuments’ expansion had “little if any negative impacts” on the catch. In fact, the team found that Hawaii’s longline fleet caught more fish after the monuments were expanded.

Allowing industrial fishing in the Pacific Ocean’s most healthy and pristine waters is equivalent to clear cutting the thousand year old redwoods in Sequoia National Park, destroying complex coral ecosystems and threatening sharks, sea turtles and whales.

President Trump and WESPAC leave the monuments as-is, leave the fish in the marine protected area and retain full protected status for these ocean treasures.