Success Story: Protecting Marine Treasures in the Pacific Ocean

The Facts

In January 2009, following two years of work, the Pew Environment Group celebrated the designation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. A trove of natural beauty and scientific wonders, the monument spans 95,000 square miles (246,000 square kilometers) and lies along the eastern side of the Northern Mariana Islands, a string of 15 islands located 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) south of Japan. These islands comprise the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam.

A dazzling world of pristine reefs, still ruled by giant predators.NBC Nightly News broadcast a segment featuring the Marianas Trench and the community support that played a critical role in securing the historic designation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.


Found here is the Marianas Trench, the deepest point on Earth—so deep that Mount Everest could fit, with a mile of water above its peak.

The unspoiled waters surrounding these islands are home to a variety of marine life, from sharks and whales to sea turtles and more than two-dozen species of seabirds. The reefs and waters here are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific and include the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet discovered.

Spectacular volcanic undersea vents, or “smokers,” support a Noah's Ark of unique marine life, including primitive archeobacteria, some of the oldest-known organisms on Earth. In 2006, stunned scientists discovered a boiling pool of liquid sulfur on the bottom of the ocean, previously known in only one place in the solar system—on Io, a moon of Jupiter (watch videos of discovery here and here).

The Challenge

For two years before the official Marianas designation, the Pew Environment Group's Global Ocean Legacy project worked with Friends of the Monument, a local group organized to promote the establishment of a marine national monument in this region. Together, we helped sponsor more than 100 public meetings, secure more than 6,000 signatures from the community citing the benefits of the marine monument for conservation, tourism, education and research, and win virtually unanimous support from the business community. Read letters of support.

Global Ocean Legacy, a project of the Pew Environment Group and its partners, aims to establish a worldwide system of very large, highly protected marine reserves that are no-take (protected from fishing and other extractive activities). We work with local residents, governments and scientists around the world to protect and conserve some of the Earth's most important and unspoiled marine environments.

© NOAA

Hydrothermal Site near an underwater volcano.

The Results

In January 2009, U.S. President George W. Bush designated three areas in the Pacific Ocean as marine national monuments. The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument is the largest of these protected areas and is the second-largest marine national monument in the United States.

Strong local support and the region's unique scientific and historic values ultimately persuaded President Bush to establish the Marianas Trench monument.

What You Can Do

Learn more about Global Ocean Legacy's efforts around the world to protect and conserve some of the most important and unspoiled marine environments.

Visit Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and Marianas Trench Marine National Monument to learn more.