United States and Kiribati Sign Historic Cooperative Arrangement to Protect Vital Marine Habitat in the Pacific

International Conservation Partnership on “Phoenix Ocean Arc” will Benefit 489,000 Square Nautical Miles of Ocean; Builds on President Obama’s Action to Expand Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Republic of Kiribati President Anote Tong to sign a Cooperative Arrangement to coordinate and jointly support research and conservation activities for nearly 490,000 square nautical miles in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (Monument) in the United States and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati.

“With this cooperative arrangement, our two nations are embracing a shared vision of marine conservation that crosses political boundaries and helps protect pristine areas in the Pacific,” Jewell said at a signing ceremony in conjunction with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2014 World Parks Congress. “It is a commitment we are making together for the health of our ocean as it faces growing pressure from climate change, ocean acidification and other threats.”  

The arrangement strengthens cooperative management of the two protected areas, collectively called the Phoenix Ocean Arc, that make up a wide swath of the Pacific, including entire island ecosystems, coral reefs, seamounts and marine areas. Collaborative activities may include scientific research, law enforcement, the removal of shipwrecks, conservation of seabirds, and eradication of non-native species, such as rats, from atolls.

“This collaborative arrangement will enhance efforts in strengthening enforcement and surveillance and we look forward to working closely with the U.S. on this,” said President Tong.

Earlier this year, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding the Monument, one of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world, to six times its original size. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Monument now protects nearly 490,000 square miles around tropical islands and atolls (including seven national wildlife refuges) in the south-central Pacific Ocean and is the largest marine reserve in the world that is completely off-limits to commercial resource extraction, including commercial fishing.  

Kiribati established PIPA in 2008 to protect 157,630 square miles in the central Pacific; UNESCO has recognized it as a World Heritage Site. The Government of Kiribati recently announced the closure of PIPA to commercial activities to be enforced starting in January 2015.

Both PIPA and the Monument are sites with strong conservation mandates; opportunities for global research; challenges to managing and enforcing regulations; and threats from illegal or unregulated fishing and trespassing.

With pressures on the ocean increasing, permanent protections for the most valuable and productive marine ecosystems are especially important. Enhanced coordination between PIPA and the Monument will provide an expanded safe haven for fish and other wildlife to live unharmed by commercial activity.

“The Pacific Ocean provides food security, global weather and climate stability, recreation and inspiration, and jobs and prosperity,” Jewell said. “Protecting the health and integrity of these vast wild areas and their marine wildlife is good national and international policy and demonstrates to the world the benefits of cross-border marine protection.”

In June, President Tong was a featured speaker at the Department of State-hosted “Our Ocean” Conference. The conference brought together individuals, experts, practitioners, advocates, lawmakers, and the international ocean and foreign policy communities to gather lessons learned, share the best science, offer unique perspectives, and demonstrate effective actions to chart a way forward to protect the ocean.

For more information on the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/pacific_remote_islands_marine_national_monument/

For more information on the Phoenix Island Protected Area: http://www.phoenixislands.org/

Date: November 13, 2014

Jessica Kershaw (Interior), Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov

Megan Nagel (FWS), megan_nagel@fws.gov

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