Trump signs executive order to review monument designations
Two national marine monuments with ties to American Samoa are among the nation’s 20-plus land and ocean monuments established by previous administrations now being reviewed by the US Interior Department, based on an executive order signed yesterday by US President Donald Trump.
Through the executive order, Trump calls for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review designations of more than 100,000 acres of marine and land designations created by previous presidents since 1996 under the federal Antiquities Act.
According to the White House list released yesterday of the 24 monuments to be reviewed, two of them are the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument or (PRIMNM) in the Pacific region and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa.
During a news conference at the DOI building yesterday, video and photos show Congresswoman Aumua Amata in attendance when Trump signed the executive order, which states in part that designations of monuments under the Antiquities Act have a substantial impact on the management of Federal lands and the use and enjoyment of neighboring lands.
“Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with State, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of Federal lands, burden State, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth,” the order says.
According to the White House, the executive order “does NOT strip any monument of a designation” and “does NOT loosen any environmental or conservation regulations on any land or marine areas.”
In a nationally televised news conference yesterday, Trump says he was signing the order “to end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”
In a news release, Amata thanked Trump for the executive order. “These monument designations that have come at the behest of special interest groups, have often been extremely harmful to those who have traditionally utilized them, such as American Samoa,” she said.
And if legislative action is necessary, she said, “I will take whatever action necessary to return our waters which have sustained us long before our relationship with America. Our people have been cut off from access to regions of the Pacific that we have fished for over a millennium.”
PACIFIC MARINE MONUMENT
Perhaps the most critical to American Samoa’s economy is the PRIMNM, which was designated by President Bush in 2009 and enlarged by President Obama in 2014 — creating some 55.6 million acres.
Territorial leaders and US purse seiner owners have argued that the expansion, takes away traditional fishing grounds for the US fleet, which delivers their catches to the canneries in American Samoa.
American Tunaboat Association executive director Brian Hallman was among the vocal opposition of the expansion telling Samoa News at the time that closure of “traditional fishing grounds” will force the US fleet to fish further out at sea. Tri Marine International also echoed this, which has a US purse seiner fleet based in the territory.
Testifying in March this year before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing regarding monuments and sanctuaries, Hallman says Obama’s expansion of the PRIMNM was done without input from the public or the fishing fleet.
“These closures involved traditional and productive US fishing areas,” he said, adding that the initial intention was to prohibit all commercial activity but was later modified following “an uproar” from US fishing interests — including ATA — the American territories in the region, tuna science experts, and the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council (WPRFMC).
“These areas are traditional fishing grounds for US flag tuna vessels operating mainly out of American Samoa and Honolulu,” he explained. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 17 for details.)
In early March this year, Amata and US Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, wrote to Trump, asking to remove all marine monument fishing prohibitions and reinstate fisheries management in accordance with federal law.
Bishop and Amata explain that Marine National Monuments created in the U.S. Pacific Islands resulted in the U.S tuna purse seine fleet losing access to historical fishing areas, including all U.S waters (0- 200 miles) surrounding Jarvis Island, Wake Island, and Johnston atoll — which are remote and uninhabited possession of the U.S totaling 1.1 million square miles. (See Mar. 8 issye for details.)
In a letter last December, the Honolulu-based Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (one of the eight fishery councils) informed Obama that the Pacific PRIMNM expansion displaced sustainably managed US fishing vessels from US waters.
For the US purse seine fleet, for example, this resulted in increased reliance on fishing in waters of Pacific Island countries. Furthermore access to fish in waters of these island countries, the Council wrote, “comes at exorbitant cost — approximately $12,000 per fishing day.”
The Rose Atoll, comprising 8.6 million acres — was proclaimed a marine national monument by Bush in 2009. At the time, there was strong opposition from Manu’a fishermen and leaders who argued that Rose Atoll, or Mulivai, is their traditional fishing grounds and they along with other leaders of American Samoa were not given the chance to comment.
In 2013, when fishing within 12 nautical miles (nm) of the Rose Atoll National Monument was proposed there was more strong opposition from Manu’a leaders, but rule became final in June 2013.
Then Manu’a District Governor Misaalefua Hudson, on behalf of the people of Manu’a, wrote to the federal government saying that the proposed prohibited fishing zone does not allow the indigenous people of American Samoa to fish within the zone.
“This is equivalent to the federal government prohibiting religious communion,” he said and noted that the establishment of the 12 nautical miles closed area “is disgraceful to our natural birthright as indigenous Samoans and contrary to our demonstrated long-term use, management, and health of marine resources found at Muliava Atoll.” (See Samoa News, June 10, 2013 for details)
Samoa News should note that there are also strong supporters of the Rose Atoll and Pacific Remote Islands monunments.