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January 06, 2009

Three new Marine Monuments prohibit recreational boating and fishing access

President leaves anglers and boaters a legacy of restricted access to public resources
By Asa

Using unilateral presidential powers provided under the Antiquities Act and bypassing long-standing environmental review and public comment processes, President George W. Bush has declared Rose Atoll, the Mariana Trench and the Pacific Remote Island Area (PRIA) as U.S. National Marine Monuments creating the largest marine protected area on the planet covering 195,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The proclamation effectively prohibits recreational fishing out to 50 nautical miles within the monuments for an undetermined period of time until federal agencies can complete their compatibility assessments.

In 2006, President Bush first used the Antiquities Act to create the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument. The Antiquities Act historically has been used to set aside lands under a federal designation for historical or cultural significance, as are some of the areas within the National Park Service. The Hawaiian Islands monument encompasses 140,000 square miles where all recreational fishing, even catch-and-release, is banned.  
The American Sportfishing Association along with other members of the sportfishing community held a series of meetings with the White House over the past several months to highlight the conservation, economic and social benefits of recreational fishing and boating and voice their concerns about using the Antiquities Act to establish marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean.
"What most people will fail to realize is that this designation process took approximately 60 days to complete. There was no proposal or scientific information available for public review and comment," said American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman. "We in the sportfishing community have significant issues with any process where the outcome prohibits people from accessing public resources, particularly when there is no open, transparent process to do so."
Nussman further said, "In interviews and on the campaign trail, President-elect Barack Obama has said that his agenda regarding access to public lands is going to be one that ensures the outdoors is available to the next generation. More specifically he said that, and I quote, 'The decision to establish marine reserves should be made as a result of a transparent, science-based process and be the least intrusive possible to get the job done.' We will work with the Obama administration on these and other issues of importance to the sportfishing community."