1 Sep 2008

Concerns about protection of new sanctuary in Northern Mariana's waters

10:20 am on 1 September 2008

In a newly released scientific report, backers of a proposal to designate a 115,000 square mile section of ocean in the CNMI's northern waters as a national marine monument, say the region is increasingly under threat from human activity and ecological changes.

The report from the Pew Charitable Trust contains a warning from Dr. Rusty Brainard, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that the remoteness of the area around the islands of Maug, Uracus and Asuncion will not protect them.

Dr Brainard says the area is only a day away by boat from Saipan and it would be easy to significantly exploit them."

The report also says the area contains 19 species of whales and dolphins, including some of the world's rarest species of beaked whales.

It also has the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet seen on the planet .