Establishment of Marine National Monuments

Establishment of Marine National Monuments

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to protect areas on federal lands by designating them as “national monuments.” While originally intended to protect areas that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest, the Act has been used more broadly to swiftly designate areas for preservation purposes without Congressional involvement or legislative approval. Because traditional public land designation rulemaking processes that require environmental review and public participation do not apply, Antiquities Act designations by a President can be made very quickly and without scientific, economic, and public input. Presidents have proclaimed over 100 monuments, the vast majority being terrestrial. There are currently four marine monuments, all concentrated in the Pacific Islands region. These monuments were established under President George W. Bush, and recently expanded by President Obama.

Our Position

ASA remains concerned with the rapid process by which marine monuments have been designated, and their underlying motivations. Should an Administration move forward with a monument designation, ASA believes the planning process must include heavy stakeholder outreach and engagement. National monuments are not the way we would like to see fisheries management decisions to take place, especially given there are existing, effective systems to make those decisions. It is ASA’s intent to strongly advocate for the existing precedent that allows recreational fishing in marine monuments to carry through in future designations unless it has been scientifically determined to be in conflict with protecting natural resources.

Issue Background

In an August 25 Executive Memo to the Secretaries of Defense, Interior and Commerce and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), President Bush directed them to study potential MPAs in the central Pacific Ocean. In that memo the President directed the agencies and CEQ to sustain access to recreational fishing as part of their study effort. On September 26, 2008, the President signed an amendment to the 1995 Executive Order on recreational fishing. This amendment mandates that federal agencies must maintain recreational fishing on federal lands and waters, including MPAs:

“ensuring that recreational fishing shall be managed as a sustainable activity in national wildlife refuges, national parks, national monuments, national marine sanctuaries, marine protected areas, or any other relevant conservation or management areas or activities under any Federal authority, consistent with applicable law.”

Although regulated recreational fishing presents no threat to fish stocks in the central Pacific and there is no evidence that recreational fishing is harming area ecosystems, many environmental groups lobbied the White House and federal agencies to adopt their anti-recreational fishing philosophy regarding Pacific Ocean conservation.

These groups mounted a letter writing campaign to convince senior officials in the White House and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that recreational fishing should be banned in thousands of square miles in the Central Pacific. They said: “Unfortunately, the final designation of these areas may allow some fishing…” and that “declaring these monuments as fully-protected no-take reserves is crucial for meaningful stewardship of our imperiled oceans.”

Papahānaumokuākea Hawaiian National Monument

An Executive Order from President George W. Bush on January 6, 2009 mandated that recreational fishing should be managed as a sustainable activity in future MPA designations. Despite that commitment, President Bush designated three areas of the Pacific Ocean as Marine National Monuments, creating the largest MPA on the planet, totaling 195,000 square miles. Though recreational fishing is presently banned in some areas, recreational fishing opponents strongly urged the President to ban fishing in the entire marine monument complex, a proposal that the President rejected. This type of request on the part of some environmental groups has become common practice among that community and is needlessly aggressive towards recreational fishing, and more worryingly, often scientifically unjusitified. The Executive Order and Executive Memo were designed to protect marine resources and purposefully allowed for recreational fishing.

The MPA precedent for this and other potential widespread recreational fishing closures was set with the establishment of Papahānaumokuākea Hawaiian National Monument. Papahānaumokuākea covers 140,000 square miles of ocean—an area larger than 46 of the 48 continental states. This monument was established by a Presidential action through the Antiquities Act. Although recreational fishing in this area of the Northern Hawaiian Islands was already minimal because of its great distance from Hawaii's main islands, the establishment of the monument included a complete closure to recreational fishing throughout the entire MPA.

The establishment process of Papahānaumokuākea has proven detrimental to the sportfishing community as other MPA proposals have emerged. By closing the monument to sportfishing, a precedent was set that recreational fishing opponents are using in their favor as they lobby for no-take MPAs. The Hawaiian Monument fishing closure was referenced extensively in arguments for full fishing closures in the central Pacific. The MPA philosophy was aggressively and successfully promoted to government and the public by well-funded, anti-sustainable use environmental groups. Their support for MPAs is rooted in ideology rather than science.

On August 26, 2016, President Obama announced a vast expansion of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, known as Papahanaumokuakea, out to 200 miles or the limits of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, creating the world’s largest marine protected area. All commercial resource extraction activities including commercial fishing, oil exploration and mineral extraction are prohibited in the expanded areas.

ASA is pleased that non-commercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, are permitted in the expanded area between 50 and 200 miles off the coast. NOAA and the Department of the Interior will be responsible for managing the expanded marine monument and have been given three years to put forward implementing regulations. President Obama’s action follows a proposal put forward by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Hawaiian state officials and Native Hawaiian leaders.

Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument

In 2009, shortly before leaving office, one of the three marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean that President Bush enacted was the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument. Although human activity in these areas is minimal to begin with, commercial activities were prohibited. Recreational fishing was not allowed until the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce completed a lengthy rulemaking process to permit recreational fishing. These management plans went into effect in 2013 and allow for recreational fishing under a permit and logbook requirement.

On September 25, 2014, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding the existing Pacific Remote Islands Monument by approximately 300,000 square miles (compared to his original proposal of 700,000 square miles). The proclamation bans commercial fishing, deep-sea mining and other commercial extraction methods. As for recreational fishing, the proclamation reads, “(t)he Secretaries shall provide a process to ensure that recreational fishing continues to be managed as a sustainable activity in the Monument and Monument Expansion.”

ASA is pleased that in the most recent designation under President Obama there is an acknowledgment that recreational fishing is a sustainable use of a public resource and therefore will be allowed.

Proposed Monument for New England Corals and Sea Canyons

On September 3, 2015, the Obama Administration announced that it would consider a new marine national monument in New England waters, a plan that was tabled later because of concerns about the designation process voiced by stakeholder groups. The proposed monument was initiated by environmental groups and would have included several deep sea canyons and seamounts, a network of deep water corals which are approximately 100 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. NOAA hosted a town hall meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, and written public input was also accepted. ASA and industry members attended the meeting, expressing the industry’s view that if a monument is designated it should allow for recreational fishing to continue. The Administration acknowledged in a 2014 statement that recreational fishing is a sustainable use of a public resource, which ASA is hoping will drive any potential, future national marine monuments.

President Obama announced the creation of the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on September 15, allowing recreational fishing to continue to occur in the area. ASA is very pleased to see that the Administration made the distinction between recreational and commercial fishing and will allow recreational fishing to continue as an important and sustainable activity. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts covers a 4,913 square mile area 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast that contains deep sea corals and other unique and fragile marine habitats. These areas are also popular offshore fishing spots for anglers who target billfish, tuna and mahi mahi near the ocean surface. During the marine monument designation discussions, the recreational fishing and boating community advocated that recreational fishing should be allowed to continue because, among other reasons, the type of recreational fishing that occurred in these areas has no interaction with the bottom habitats that are being protected. ASA is pleased to support this federal action that follows two other marine monument decisions made by the Administration and carries on the precedent to permit recreational fishing.

Proposed Monument for California Seamounts, Ridges, and Banks

On July 14, Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced the California Seamounts and Ridges National Marine Conservation Area Designation and Management Act (H.R. 5797) which proposed to create a series of seamounts, ridges, and banks in federal waters off the California coastline. The bill was introduced after documents began circulating regarding a similar proposal to designate these areas as a marine monument through use of the Antiquities Act. While ASA remains concerned with the marine monument designation process, we recognize and appreciate that recreational fishing will be allowed in these areas under the current proposal. These views were conveyed in a letter ASA submitted to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.