19 Jun 2017

Petition wants to keep American Samoa marine protection

2:45 pm on 19 June 2017

An environmental group has launched an online petition aimed at preventing American Samoa's Rose Atoll Marine National Monument from losing its protected status.

In April, the US President Donald Trump called for a review of the nation's land and ocean monuments designated by past Presidents since 1996.

The San Francisco-based group Pacific Environment is directing the petition to the US Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, who last month issued a federal notice seeking public comments on the review.

The Rose Atoll petition requests Mr Zinke not to modify the area's boundaries, management or allowed uses.

It also says the monument was created under the scientific, cultural, and historic rationale, as required by the Antiquities Act.

The petition said some species which have declined by as much as 98 percent elsewhere are found in abundance at Rose Atoll.

These include giant clams, Maori wrasse, large parrotfish, and blacktip, whitetip, and gray reef sharks.

Pacific Environmental has also set up separate petition pages for three other monuments in the Pacific under review by the US Department of Interior, such as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

The petition notes the US longline fishing industry is the main opponent of the Pacific Remote Islands monument, claiming that it is bad for business.

"But this is not true," the petition says.

"In fact, the catch and profits have been rising. The industry's own catch data shows that the year following the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands produced a record haul."

American Samoa leaders and US purse seiner owners have argued that the expansion of Pacific Remote Islands takes away traditional fishing grounds for the US fleet, which deliver their catch to the canneries in American Samoa.