Bush to officially protect three Pacific marine sanctuaries

January 6, 2009

WASHINGTON (ChattahBox) — It’s stunning really, but President George W. Bush is stepping up on Tuesday at a ceremony at the White House to designate three remote Pacific island areas as national monuments to protect them from energy extraction and commercial fishing in what will be the largest marine conservation effort in history.

The three marine areas — totaling 195,280 square miles (a total area bigger than California) — are:

  • The northern Pacific, waters at the northern end of the Northern Mariana Islands, including the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on earth at 36,000 feet below the sea.
  • In American Samoa, the Rose Atoll — the world’s smallest coral atoll and one of the most remote.
  • The central Pacific, coral reefs, pinnacles, sea mounts, islands and surrounding waters of Johnston Atoll, Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Wake Island. These areas harbor some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.

The protected areas will extend 50 nautical miles off the coral reefs and atolls at the three monuments, which will be officially called the Marianas Marine National Monument, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The Marianas will  get a visitors center, an enforcement boat, co-management, an advisory council to the monument, and provide federal jobs. Each location harbors unique species and some of the rarest geological formations on Earth — from the world’s largest land crab to a bird that incubates its eggs in the heat of underwater volcanoes. The Marianas monument is especially significant given the scientific value of the trench and underwater volcanoes that form part of the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire.”  Advocacy groups were pushing for 200 nautical miles, the full extent of the U.S. exclusive economic zone.

All will be protected as national monuments — the same status afforded to statues and cultural sites — under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The law allows the government to immediately phase out commercial fishing and other extractive uses. However, recreational fishing, tourism and scientific research could still occur inside the three areas. Commercial fishing will reportedly be allowed in the waters over the Mariana Trench. The monument will only protect the rim of the canyon and its depths. The canyon is deeper than Mt. Everest is tall and five times the size of the Grand Canyon. The Obama administration will have to decide how the areas will be managed, and make sure the prohibitions are enforced.


One Response to “Bush to officially protect three Pacific marine sanctuaries”

  1. Ocean Advocates on January 6th, 2009 2:07 pm

    In an oped published in today’s Washington Post, Vikki Spruill put forward the key steps President-elect Barack Obama can make to begin building his blue legacy. Spruill, president and CEO of Ocean Conservancy, makes the case that at 71% of the earth’s surface and creating much of the air we breathe and food we eat, the oceans need and deserve strong protection. The proposed steps include:

    Make oceans a priority when discussing climate change. The real impacts of climate change can be seen today in the world’s oceans from bleaching coral to rising seas. When decisions are to be made on fighting climate change, the oceans must be taken into consideration.

    Focus on the Arctic. The most severe impacts of climate change can be seen in the Arctic. Melting sea ice and costal communities and villages falling into the sea are just a few examples. Oil and gas leases that have been marked for sale should be put on hold until a thorough scientific assessment of their impacts can be completed.

    Bring Order to the Ocean. From major shipping lanes to fishing waters and recreational use, the ocean has any number of uses. A comprehensive plan for sustainable ocean use will ensure that we can use the ocean while preserving it for future generations.

    Ocean Conservancy promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems and opposes practices that threaten ocean and human life. Through research, education and science-based advocacy, Ocean Conservancy informs, inspires and empowers people to speak and act on behalf of the ocean. Visit us at http://www.oceanconservancy.org

    The piece appears on page A13 of today’s Washington Post and can be viewed here:


Got something to say? **Please Note** - Comments may be edited for clarity or obscenity, and all comments are published at the discretion of ChattahBox.com - Comments are the opinions of the individuals leaving them, and not of ChattahBox.com or its partners. - Please do not spam or submit comments that use copyright materials, hearsay or are based on reports where the supposed fact or quote is not a matter of public knowledge are also not permitted.