The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands' Coral Reef Initiative (CRI) is an cross-agency initiative to protect and preserve CNMI's coral reefs and to ensure the responsible management of the resources associated with those habitats. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands' Coral Reef Initiative (CRI) is managed jointly by two local resource agencies, the Division of Environmental Quality, the Division of Coastal Resources Management, both within the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality (BECQ), and the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are made up of 14 islands extending over 600 kilometers and located in the western Pacific basin. The people of CNMI value coral reefs and are dedicated to their conservation. Coral reefs are important to CNMI because they provide traditional and subsistence uses, production of commercial food products, recreational opportunities for a healthy tourist economy, physical protection of the coastal zone from storms, diversity, rarity, and uniqueness of life forms, and, educational and research uses. Coral reefs also are an important part of CNMI’s cultural heritage.
Increased population and development over the past decade in the CNMI has exacerbated the threats to the coral reef ecosystems and has led to the destruction and reduced health of coral reefs and coral reef associated habitats. These effects are most noticeable on the island of Saipan, where approximately 90 percent of CNMI’s population resides. Therefore, most coral reef management efforts have focused on Saipan. However, the other southern populated islands also have important coral reef ecosystems that are threatened by human impacts. From a long-term perspective, the decline in coral reef coverage and marine health threatens CNMI’s cultural heritage, traditional ways of life, and physical protection from storms. This decline, however, also immediately impacts CNMI’s tourism and fisheries industries, and thus its economy. The CNMI government considers coral reef ecosystem conservation and management a high-priority concern.