Trump receives recommendation to reopen national monuments to fishing

Published on
December 7, 2017

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has officially recommended making changes to three marine national monuments, which could open the door to commercial fishing in some of those areas, if President Donald Trump signs off on the plan.

Zinke’s recommendations include allowing regional fishery management councils make decisions on commercial fishing opportunities in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. Zinke also recommended to Trump that he let councils make similar decisions, as well as possibly revise the boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands and the Rose Atoll monuments. 

“America has spoken and public land belongs to the people,” Zinke said in a statement Tuesday. “As I visited the monuments across this country, I met with Americans on all sides of the issue – from ranchers to conservationists to tribal leaders – and found that we agree on wanting to protect our heritage while still allowing public access to public land.” 

The official release of the secretary’s recommendations came one day after the president signed an executive order significantly reducing the size of two national monuments in Utah. That order has already been met with a lawsuit, and conservation groups have threatened similar action if the marine monuments are altered. 

Environmental groups criticized Zinke’s report. Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, said opening the marine monuments for fishing and land monuments for extraction goes against the nation’s tradition of protecting its natural treasures. 

“The Department of Interior’s recommendation to sell out our nation’s national marine monuments to private interests will threaten the future of these culturally important areas,” Jones said.

President Barack Obama established the Northeast Canyons monument in September 2016, the first such monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The monument is just more than 4,900 square miles in total size and is located about 100 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Obama, as other presidents have had since 1906, used his authority under the Antiquities Act to make the designation.

Zinke is not recommending a reduction of the monument. However, commercial fishermen are thankful he’s pushing to reopen the area for harvesting. 

“There seems to be a huge misconception that there are limitless areas where displaced fishermen can go,” said Grant Moore, president of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association. “Basically with the stroke of a pen, President Obama put fishermen and their crews out of work and harmed all the shore-side businesses that support the fishing industry.”

In the Pacific, commercial fishermen there raised concerns that Zinke’s final recommendations excluded changes to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which also includes several islands and atolls just northwest of Hawaii. 

President George W. Bush designated 140,000 square miles for the monument in June 2006. Obama, 10 years later, more than quadrupled its size.

Sean Martin, president of the Hawaii Longline Association, hopes Trump will add Papahānaumokuākea to his order.

“The longline fleet caught about two million pounds of fish annually from the expanded area before it was closed to our American fishermen,” he said. “That was a high price to pay for a presidential legacy.”

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