Online Petition To Protect Am. Samoa's Rose Atoll Monument Launched

Trump Administration reviewing possiblity of delisting national monuments

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 14, 2017) – An environmentalist group has launched an online petition calling for the safeguarding of  “American Samoa’s Rose Atoll Marine National Monument” from being delisted as a designated ocean monument.

President Trump directed in April this year, a review of the nation’s land and ocean monuments designated by past Presidents since 1996.

Launched recently by San Francisco-based Pacific Environment, the petition is directed to US Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, who last month issued a federal notice seeking public comments - for the first time - on the ocean and land monuments being reviewed by USDOI.

The Rose Atoll petition requests Zinke “not to modify its boundaries, management or allowed uses” and points out that the Rose Atoll monument was “created citing adequate scientific, cultural, and historic rationale, as required by the Antiquities Act.”

The petition outlined a wide range of reasons why the Rose Atoll should maintain its marine monument designation. For example, species that have faced depletion elsewhere, some of which have declined worldwide by as much as 98 percent, are found in abundance at Rose Atoll, including giant clams, Maori wrasse, large parrotfishes, and blacktip, whitetip, and gray reef sharks.

Additionally, there are 272 species of reef fish and likely countless yet to be discovered new fish and invertebrate species, as well as deep-sea coral forests. Rare seabird species of nesting petrels, shearwaters, and terns are thriving at Rose Atoll and increasing in number.

It made no mention of concerns raised by Manu’a traditional leaders in the past that waters around Rose Atoll, or Muliava as it's known in Samoan, are considered traditional fishing grounds.

Pacific Environmental has also set up separate petition pages for three other monuments in the Pacific under review by USDOI, such as Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which the petition argues was created through adequate scientific, cultural, and historic rationale, as required by the Antiquities Act.

The petition cited many reasons why the Rose Atoll (also known in Samoan as Motu O Manu) should maintain its monument designation. For example, the seven atolls and islands included within the monument represent one of the last frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world, and comprise the most widespread collection of coral reef, seabird, and shorebird protected areas on the planet under a single nation’s jurisdiction. It is home to expansive shallow coral reefs and deep coral forests, with some corals up to 5,000 years old.

Although not required for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, the Pacific Remote Islands monument underwent extensive public consultation processes.

The petition notes that the US longline fishing industry is the main opponent to the monument, claiming that it is bad for business. “But this is not true,” the petition says. “In fact, the catch and profits have been rising. The industry’s own catch data shows that the year following the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands produced a record haul.”

Petitions by Pacific Environment can be viewed at <>

As previously reported by Samoa News, territorial leaders and US purse seiner owners have argued that the expansion takes away traditional fishing grounds for the US fleet, which deliver their catch to the canneries in American Samoa.

Meanwhile, as of 9a.m. yesterday, more than 160,000 comments have been received and posted on the federal portal <> - with the majority of them opposing the re-designation of ocean and land monuments. Yesterday alone, some 250 comments were posted, including calls to maintain the Rose Atoll designation.

The Samoa News
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