Opponents of US marine national monuments are moving to roll them back, strip fishing restrictions

MPA News

Last November, MPA News speculated on whether the election of Donald Trump as US President would bring a rollback of MPAs — specifically the large marine national monuments that former President Barack Obama designated or expanded under the US Antiquities Act. (These include the 1.5-million-km2 Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the largest protected area in the world.) Our addendum to that article provided details on how Trump and the Republican Party-controlled Congress might pare back restrictions on fishing or other activities in the MPAs. At that time, one Republican member of Congress was already asking the then-incoming Administration to cancel past executive orders that had designated and expanded the 1.27-million-km2 Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Although President Trump has not yet indicated whether he supports or opposes such a rollback, opponents of the monuments are starting to press forward:

  • On 7 March, a coalition of northeastern US fishing associations filed a lawsuit challenging former President Obama’s September 2016 creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, arguing that he exceeded his authority.
  • Also on 7 March, Republican members of Congress Rob Bishop and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen sent a letter to President Trump requesting the removal of all prohibitions on fishing in marine national monuments.
  • On 15 March, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing titled “Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries”. Republican members voiced their objections to “the lack of local input, transparency and scientific scrutiny in the marine monument designation process.” 
  • On 17 March, the eight US regional Fishery Management Councils mailed a joint letter to President Trump raising concerns about fishing restrictions in marine national monuments. (The joint letter references a 2016 resolution that is available here.)

In other MPA-related news, a draft budget document obtained by the Washington Post in early March indicated the Trump Administration’s interest in slashing several specific programs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This would include eliminating funding for the nation’s 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves — an MPA system that is co-managed with state and local agencies. (The Trump Administration’s official budget blueprint to Congress on 16 March called for US$250 million in cuts to NOAA programs “supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education” but it did not specify which programs might be included in those cuts, beyond the Sea Grant program.)

To stay informed on US coastal and ocean-related developments coming out of the White House, or to submit a confidential news tip, visit OpenChannels’ Trump Watch page.

Add new comment

Sign-in with your OpenChannels Member Account and sign-up for email notifications of news. Simply visit any news post and click the "Subscribe to updates of new content of this type" link just above the comments section.