- Wilbur RossUnited States Secretary of Commerce
- Ryan ZinkeUnited States Secretary of Interior
Protect Papahānaumokuākea and the Pacific Remote Islands #MonumentsForAll
I am a surfer, photographer, and shark attack survivor from the island of Kaua‘i. I am passionate about marine conservation, particularly what's going on with shark conservation and the rapid decline of shark populations worldwide. I also feel a calling to help others overcome adversity, and enjoy being an outreach to other amputees and the adaptive/disabled community.
The amount of sharks needlessly killed is insane, about 100 million a year. It is a completely unsustainable rate considering extinction is forever. As predators, they play an invaluable role in our marine ecosystem. We need our oceans to be living and functioning, or our lives, regardless of on land or water, will become greatly affected over time.
On Wednesday April 28th President Donald Trump signed an executive order to review recent monument designations, which includes Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monuments. We’re talking about areas of our ocean that are the least damaged on this Planet—with shark-dominated ecosystems, 4,000 year old coral, and countless undiscovered species. These habitats were supposed to be protected in perpetuity and free from any commercial extraction. Now, President Trump has directed the Interior and Commerce Secretaries to review the need for these vital protections. Trump has given these agencies 45 to 180 days to come up with a plan. We need your urgent help to uphold the current protections in our Pacific monuments.
In the Pacific, oceanic whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) and silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis), highly migratory species that were once categorized as two of the most abundant species of large marine animals, have declined significantly. Populations of these species have dropped to such low levels that fishing vessels are now prohibited from retaining them. Despite this ban both species are still incidentally caught and killed on longlines in Pacific waters. Since the Pacific Remote Islands and Papahānaumokuākea monuments are within the habitats for both oceanic whitetip and silky shark, the protected areas ensure that populations of these vulnerable sharks are safeguarded—along with the countless other species like whales, turtles, sea birds, and more.
Please join me in encouraging President Trump to leave existing protections in place by signing my petition.
- United States Secretary of Commerce
- United States Secretary of Interior
I strongly urge you to oppose any rollback of the current boundaries and protections for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) as part of the review as directed under Executive Order 13792 and Executive Order 13795. Altering or reducing the scale and scope of these monuments would put marine life and habitats they protect at risk and undermine the overwhelming support for the designation and expansion of these extraordinary ecosystems as marine national monuments.
The waters of PMNM and PRIMNM contain thousands of species, many of which are endangered and found nowhere else on earth. The marine national monuments protect endangered sea turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks and seabirds from longline fishing vessels, which inadvertently catch these species, furthering major population declines. For example, in 2014 more than 7,000 sharks were hooked by Hawai‘i-based longliners in these now protected monuments, 85% of which are blue sharks, which are assessed as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The expansion of both monuments improved the connectivity between the PMNM and the five sites of the PRIMNM creating a network that aids the dispersal of fish, coral, and other invertebrate larvae. For example, these protected areas act as key stepping stones for species of coral, which spawn in Johnston Atoll, then the larvae disperse, colonizing reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The waters of PMNM and PRIMNM also hold great cultural and historical significance. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are considered a sacred place by Native Hawaiians and the area is used for traditions such as long-distance voyaging and wayfinding, which relies on undisturbed elements of the natural environment. Both monuments were also important battlegrounds during WWII, which deserve special recognition as the 75th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Midway approaches this June.
Although not required for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, both PMNM and PRIMNM underwent extensive public consultation processes. The consultations carefully considered the views of Native Hawaiians, Hawai‘i residents, representatives from all facets of the fishing industry, scientists, and conservationists. The overwhelming support for the designation and expansion of these monuments was demonstrated over the years in hundreds of public hearings and community meetings, and over one-million letters and petitions submitted from a wide range of stakeholders.
I am writing to show you that the support for these invaluable ecosystems has not wavered, and I strongly recommend the protections for PMNM and PRIMNM remain in place, which will preserve our country’s natural and cultural heritage while allowing the fishing industry to continue to prosper.
Please accept this letter as an official public comment for Docket No. DOI-2017-0002.
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