Northern Mariana Islands

Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project


In January 2009, President George W. Bush established the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, made up of three sections: the Islands, Volcanic, and Trench units. The monument is located in the federal waters and submerged lands around the Mariana Archipelago, about 1,400 miles south of Japan. The Mariana Trench, at 36,000 feet, is the deepest place on Earth—more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall.

President Bush’s proclamation led to protections for waters that are home to rare beaked whales, dolphins, and colorful deep-water fish. More than two dozen species of seabirds inhabit the area, along with several species of threatened sea turtles; 29 species of marine mammals; and giant coconut crabs, the largest land-living arthropod.

Each of the units has unique features. The Islands unit includes about 42,000 square kilometers (16,400 square miles) of highly protected federal waters and the submerged lands around the islands of Uracus, Maug, and Asuncion. Together, the Trench and Volcanic units protect the seafloor, the Mariana Trench, and 21 undersea volcanoes. The Trench unit has been designated the Mariana Trench National Wildlife Refuge, while the Volcanic unit is now the Mariana Arc of Fire National Wildlife Refuge. Because of the trench’s depth and inaccessibility, most of the region’s wonders have yet to be discovered.

In the years since the declaration, the indigenous community identified several ways to improve the monument and called for transferring control of some submerged lands from the federal government to the government of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy project is continuing the efforts of its predecessor, Global Ocean Legacy, and is working with the communities of the Northern Marianas to improve management and enhance protections for the area.

Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation joined forces in 2017 to create the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project. This effort builds on a decade of work by Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy initiative, which helped obtain commitments to safeguard more than 6.3 million square kilometers (2.4 million square miles) of ocean by working with philanthropic partners, indigenous groups, community leaders, government officials, and scientists.

Our Work

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  • The World's Largest Highly Protected Marine Reserves

    A map featuring the world's largest highly protected marine reserves. Read More

  • Global Ocean Legacy Map

    Global Ocean Legacy, a project of Pew and its partners, is working with local communities, governments and scientists around the world to protect and conserve some of our most important and unspoiled ocean environments. See where we are working in the map below. Read More

  • Protecting the Deep Sea

    Wellington, New Zealand, is an appropriate setting for this week's 13th International Deep Sea Biology Symposium. Just offshore from the capital city is the second-deepest underwater trench in the world, the Kermadec Trench. Situated east of the Kermadec island chain and extending more than 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) northwest toward Tonga, the area includes some of the most geologically... Read More

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Kevin Connor

Manager, Communications