Nomination Denied for Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Federal maritime officials have denied a nomination to
create an Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary submitted by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility and several environmental
organizations. The proposed sanctuary would have encompassed all federal waters
along the entire Aleutian Islands archipelago to the Alaska mainland, including
federal waters off of the Pribilof Islands and Bristol Bay, an area of about
554,000 square nautical miles.
The decision came from Daniel Basta, director of the
Commerce Department’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, who said the
proposal, as submitted, was not sufficient. Basta cited, among other reasons
for the decision, a lack of support from community interests, including the
Aleutians East Borough. Basta also noted that the nomination provided little to
no description as to how this area would provide opportunities for education,
such as specific partnerships and commitments from educational groups.
Basta did offer PEER alternatives, including considering nominating
a smaller area or a series of smaller areas that encompass the specific
resources believed to be of highest value for a possible national marine
sanctuary designation.
In a letter to PEER spokesperson Rick Steiner of Anchorage,
Basta advised Steiner to keep in mind that the nomination process is a
community based process and demonstration of wide community support weighs very
heavily within the management considerations.

Earlier this month, the Aleutians East Borough Assembly
passed unanimously a resolution opposing nomination of the area as a marine
sanctuary. A resolution opposing designation of the area as a marine sanctuary
was introduced in the Alaska Legislature by Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D- Dillingham. In
addition, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, introduced legislation in Congress to
prohibit he Secretary of Commerce from designating a new marine sanctuary in