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U.S. and Chile Announce New Marine Sanctuaries, Cuba May Partner

During the 2015 Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, President Barack Obama announced that, for the first time since 2000, two new national marine sanctuaries have been identified by NOAA for possible designation under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. NOAA is now seeking comment on the proposals. The announcement came on 5 October 2015.

 

In a video released from the White House, President Obama said, “The United States is committed to working with our international partners to protect our oceans and protect our planet, because I refuse to leave our children a planet that’s beyond their capacity to repair.”

In Wisconsin, an 875-square mile area of Lake Michigan, with waters extending from Port Washington to Two Rivers received tremendous support from the community, and was identified for possible designation. The nominated area contains a collection of 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mallows Bay in Maryland is a 14-square mile area of the tidal Potomac River, adjacent to Charles County. Nearly 200 vessels spanning from the Revolutionary War through the present are found in the area, including the remains of the largest “Ghost Fleet” of World War I wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both sites were nominated as a national marine sanctuary through the sanctuary nomination process with broad community support.

Meanwhile, at the same event, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas marine park, which will cover a surface area of more than 297,000 square kilometers, or more than 114,000 square miles, in the area surrounding the San Ambrosio and San Felix islands. The Chilean government also announced a marine protected area around Easter Island encompassing more than 600,000 square kilometers. That announcement will require approval of the island’s indigenous community, the Rapa Nui.

Also of note, the U.S. and Cuba discussed a joint maritime reserve in waters between their countries, according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We are also working to finalize a new sister marine protected area arrangement with Cuba to connect protected sides in our two countries, so we can better collaborate on scientific research, education, and sound management,” he said.

Kerry did not give details on where the reserve would be, but there are barely 90 miles (145 kilometers) of shallow tropical waters between Cuba‘s northern shore and the U.S. state of Florida. He did say he has plans to visit Cuba in January 2016 to pursue this plan.

President Obama’s comments to the 2015 Our Ocean Conference can be viewed here.

Concerning the U.S. sanctuaries, the public is invited to submit comments until 15 January through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov (docket number for Mallows Bay-Potomac River is NOAA-NOS-2015-0111 and docket number for Wisconsin-Lake Michigan is NOAA-NOS-2015-0112). An official notice will be published in the Federal Register later this week.

Comments may also be mailed if postmarked 15 January 2016.

Comments on Mallows Bay-Potomac River should be sent to:
Paul Orlando
Chesapeake Bay Regional Coordinator
ONMS Northeast and Great Lakes Region
c/o NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office
410 Severn Ave, Suite 207-A
Annapolis, MD 21403
 
 
Comments on Wisconsin-Lake Michigan should be sent to:
Ellen Brody
Great Lakes Regional Coordinator
ONMS Northeast and Great Lakes Region
4840 South State Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108-9719
 
 

NOAA will also be hosting public meetings to answer questions and gather public input at the following locations:

Maryland:

November 4, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
La Plata--Charles County Government Building Auditorium
200 Baltimore Street
La Plata, Maryland
 
 
November 10, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Annapolis Maritime Museum
723 Second Street
Annapolis, Maryland
 
 

Wisconsin:

November 17, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Wisconsin Maritime Museum
75 Maritime Drive
Manitowoc, Wisconsin
 
 
November 18, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Wilson House
200 N. Franklin Street
Port Washington, Wisconsin
 
November 19, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan,
Main Building, Wombat Room (Room 2114)
1 University Drive
Sheboygan, Wisconsin
 
 

Following this comment period, NOAA will develop a draft environmental impact statement, draft management plan and potential regulations for each site, which will then be available for public review. After reviewing those comments, NOAA will then make a final decision on the proposed action.

More information on the two proposed sites can be found at

sanctuaries.noaa.gov/mallows-bay/

sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin/

Additional photos can be found at

sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/press/mallows-bay-and-wisconsin/

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