Pacific Remote Islands MPA under threat

Sciencemag.org reports, 21st September 2017: Marine scientists are warning that if the Trump administration rescinds fishing protections around eight Pacific islands, the United States will lose one of its best laboratories for measuring how a warming climate affects marine life.

A proposal from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, leaked to The Washington Post, argues that regulations on waters around the islands — Howland, Baker, Johnston, Wake, Jarvis, Palmyra, Rose, and Kingman Reef — “should be amended… to allow commercial fishing.”

“We need baselines,” says Alan Friedlander of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu. “We need pristine reefs to see what we’ve lost elsewhere, to better manage damaged reefs and to isolate the effects of climate change.”

The islands “are one of the great natural treasures of the world,” says Callum Roberts, a marine ecologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom. “It’s hard to find words adequate to express my level of dismay at this abject betrayal of present and future generations.”

In 2009, President George W. Bush designated the islands, lying south of the Hawaiian chain, as national monuments. All but Wake, which hosts a military base, were already National Wildlife Refuges before attaining that status.

As refuges, commercial fishing is banned within 12 nautical miles, which preserved the health of the reefs even in the face of rising temperatures. In the rest of the islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone — waters out to 200 miles from shore — they were fished by long-line tuna boats from Hawaii.

Bush’s designation banned fishing within 50 nautical miles of shore; in 2014, President Barack Obama extended the ban to 200 miles for Wake, Johnston, and Jarvis.

President Donald Trump is expected to try to change the rules by executive order or by a new Antiquities Act proclamation.

Any such move will be challenged in court, says Michael Gravitz, director of policy and legislation at the non-profit Marine Conservation Institute in Washington, D.C.

  

Source: Sciencemag.org, 21st September 2017. For the full details, see
www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/scientists-pan-proposal-open-pristine-pacific-islands-fishing

 


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