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Case Applauds President Biden's Commencement Of Marine Sanctuary Designation Process For U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Waters

Since May 2022, Case has urged the Administration to maximize protections for one of the last pristine marine environments on Earth

(Honolulu, HI) – Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) today applauded President Biden’s direction to the Secretary of Commerce to initiate consideration of designation of the waters of the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands as a National Marine Sanctuary.

The action follows Case’s calls, commencing in May 2022 in partnership with the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition and others, for maximum protection of U.S.-owned and controlled waters surrounding the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands, including the Central Pacific atolls and reefs of Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Island; Johnston, Wake, and Palmyra Atoll; and Kingman Reef. (See Case’s attached letters to the President of May 31 and October 31, 2022, and March 10, 2023.)

“These waters are among the last pristine marine environments on our Earth, and also the most fragile,” said Case, a member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries who, during his prior service in Congress (2002-2007), also advocated successfully for creation of today’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

“Our world’s oceans are at mortal risk, a breaking point precipitated by the unsustainable overfishing and other resource extraction, debris and land-based pollution, exacerbated and compounded by the devastating and pervasive marine effects of climate change.”

Case continued: “The Pacific Remote Islands including their waters are not only a critical interlocking component of the broader Pacific marine ecosystem, but an integral part of the historical and cultural ties of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific as well as a key source of scientific knowledge on the preservation of a sustainable ocean environment. As a nation, we have a duty to ensure the long-term survival of the PRI’s ecological, scientific and cultural value. This process will do just that and will achieve the marine protection goals of President Biden’s America the Beautiful Initiative to protect thirty percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.”

Parts of U.S. Pacific Remote Islands waters were designated as a National Marine Monument by President Bush in 2009 and expanded by President Obama in 2014. Case, working with the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition, has urged designation of all of the waters surrounding all of the PRIs to the full extent of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as a new Sanctuary, especially for the currently unprotected waters surrounding Howland and Baker Islands, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef. The Coalition, which has been working toward expansion since 2014, says a Sanctuary designation would add some 265,000 square miles of highly protected waters, resulting in the creation of the world’s largest highly protected marine area (MPA) in national waters at some 777,000 square miles, an area larger than Alaska.

As a follow-up to his initial support in May and October 2022, Case recently penned a letter to President Biden, which urged the President to incorporate the following crucial protections as guidelines for a Sanctuary designation:

1.       Any potential marine sanctuary study areas should include the entire area of the existing monument plus the expansion areas around Baker and Howland Islands as well as Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef.

2.       Any directive should include a strong purpose statement with clear goals and objectives consistent with the comprehensive conservation provisions of the current PRIMNM to ensure any subsequent monument expansion or national marine sanctuary designation supplement, complement and enhance the current high levels of protection of the monument across the entire EEZ.

3.       The process should result in a sustainable management regime that includes co-management by indigenous peoples.

4.       An advisory council should be formed to provide guidance.

5.       The renaming process and final decision on names should be pursued in a culturally appropriate framework.

The Sanctuary designation process directed by the President will include opportunities for public comment. The President is also directing the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a public process to work with the Indigenous communities of the Pacific to appropriately rename the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and potentially the Islands themselves, and to provide posthumous recognition for young mostly Native Hawaiian men sent to secure U.S. territorial claim to the islands in the run up to World War II, as remembered in the 2010 award-winning documentary, “Under a Jarvis Moon”. 


·        Case letters to the President calling for designating the PRIs as a National Marine Sanctuary