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Exploring the Deepest Part of Our Ocean

Have you ever wondered what goes on at the very bottom of the ocean? Located in the Western Pacific, Marianas Trench provides us a glimpse into the answer. Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the world’s oceans, yet it thrives with organisms uniquely suited for the challenging conditions.

To protect this one-of-a-kind ecosystem and its inhabitants, President George W. Bush established the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument on January 6, 2009. Through Presidential Proclamation under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Bush protected approximately 95,216 square miles within the Mariana Archipelago.

The monument is divided into three units: the Mariana Trench Unit, the Volcanic Unit, and the Island Unit. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne used a Secretarial Order to bring these units into the National Wildlife Refuge System under the management authority of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). The Mariana Trench Unit, containing only submerged lands, is nearly 1,100 miles long and 44 miles wide. The Volcanic Unit, which became the Mariana Arc of the Fire National Wildlife Refuge, consists of the submerged lands within one nautical mile of 21 designated volcanic sights. The Island Unit, now the Mariana Trench National Wildlife Refuge, includes the waters and submerged lands of the three northernmost Mariana Islands below the mean low water line.

Jacks at Asuncion Island. Marianas Trench Marine National Monument | NOAA
Jacks at Asuncion Island. Marianas Trench Marine National Monument | NOAA

A diverse array of marine life resides throughout the monument. Many species of whales and dolphins are found in the Islands Unit, including sperm, humpback, and sei whales protected under the Endangered Species Act. Due to its remote location, the Island Unit helps protect threatened green sea turtles and endangered hawksbill turtles, in addition to a wide variety of fish such as blue marlin, sharks, and mahi mahi. Three hundred species of beautiful coral are spread across the Monument, more than at any other U.S. reef area. The reefs and waters are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific and include the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet discovered.

The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument is like no place on Earth. For example, it is the only place on Earth where photosynthetic and chemosynthetic communities of life co-exist, along with unique pools of liquid sulfur, which support abundant marine life and unusual and mysterious creatures. For the scientific community, places like Marianas Trench offer incredible opportunities to discover something new and to increase our scientific understanding of our planet. Despite the fact that the majority of the monument and coastal ecosystems are intact, they are susceptible to climate change, like coral bleaching and ocean acidification, which is why it is important to protect and preserve it. Additional studies and research not only on the ecological phenomenon of Marianas Trench, but also on the impacts of climate change, will lead to solutions to address this global issue.

Reef Fish and Porites Cylindrica Coral at Maug Island Marianas Trench Marine National Monument | NOAA
Reef Fish and Porites Cylindrica Coral at Maug Island Marianas Trench Marine National Monument | NOAA

President Trump’s Executive Order for Secretary of the Interior Zinke to review Marianas Trench Marine National Monument’s designation could have devastating effects on people and wildlife. A decision to reduce the Monument would undermine the effective conservation efforts of the FWS, while an outright revocation would violate the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act and set a dangerous precedent for all of our national monuments.

As Americans, we have the ability to protect one of the world’s only remaining untouched ecosystems, and we have a responsibility to do so. Click here to submit public comments expressing your concern over the threat to Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, as well as every other monument threatened by President Trump. We must stand together to support our vital yet vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2017/06/exploring-the-deepest-part-of-our-ocean/

1 comment

  1. Sally Drake says:

    Please protect these fragile environments. All lives on Earth depend on biodiversity. This is the most important action you can do. The action is to acknowledge that we need to protect the wild places. Stay strong and protect these monuments. Thanks.

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