Three New Marine Monuments?

Posted by Miwa at Jan 06, 2009 05:46 AM |
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From today’s Washington Post:

President Bush will create three new marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean Tuesday, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, designated areas that will span 195,280 square miles and protect some of the most ecologically-rich areas of the world’s oceans.

The decision to make the designations under the Antiquities Act, coming just two weeks before Bush leaves office, means that he will have protected more square miles of ocean than any person in history. In 2006 Bush created the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, an area of 138,000 square miles.

Two of the areas encompass a region known as the Line Islands, a relatively isolated and uninhabited string of islands in the central Pacific. The third area, in the western Pacific, includes the waters around a few islands in the northern Marianas chain and the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean canyon in the world.

Both regions boast enormous biodiversity: Kingman Reef and other islands in the central Pacific area teem with sharks and other top predators as well as vibrant, healthy corals; the Mariana Trench and its nearby islands are home to several species of rare beaked whales and the Micronesian megapode — an endangered bird that uses the heat from volcanic vents to incubate its eggs — and also boast mud volcanoes, pools of boiling sulfur and the greatest microbial diversity on Earth.

“The president’s actions will prevent the destruction and extraction of natural resources from these beautiful and biologically-diverse areas without conflicting with our military’s activities and freedom of navigation, which are vital to our national security,” Perino said. “And the public and future generations with benefit from science and knowledge. The President has a strong eight-year record of ocean conservation, and these new designated protected areas will comprise the largest area of ocean set aside as marine protected areas in the world.”

While not all areas within the designated monuments will be fully protected — slightly less than 60 percent of the total will be subject to prohibitions on fishing and other extractive activities — environmentalists praised Bush for the move.

“With the designation of these new marine monuments in the Marianas Islands, American Samoa and the western pacific, George Bush has ushered in a new era of ocean conservation in the United States and the world at large,” said Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. “It has taken 137 years, since the creation of America’s first national park in Yellowstone in 1872, to recognize that unique areas of the world’s oceans deserve the same kind of protection as we have afforded similar places on land. And none too soon.”

White House press briefing:

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