June 18th, 2006 05:46 EST
Bush Creates World's Largest Marine, Protected Area
Washington –The largest single conservation area in U.S. history, and the largest protected marine area anywhere in the world was established by President Bush June 15.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument is distinctive not only for its size but as a unique ecosystem hosting a diversity of life, some of which is found nowhere else. The archipelago stretching almost 2,600 kilometers across the central Pacific Ocean is home to more than 7,000 marine species, and is the largest and healthiest coral-reef system in the United States.
“As a marine national monument, the waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will receive our nation’s highest form of marine environmental protection,” said President Bush at a White House ceremony. “We will protect a precious natural resource. We will show our respect for the cultural and historical importance of this area. And we will create an important place for research and learning about how we can be good stewards of our oceans and our environment.”
The monument will preserve access for native Hawaiian cultural activities. Unauthorized passage of ships will be prohibited, as will unauthorized recreational or commercial activity, extraction of coral wildlife minerals and other resources or waste dumping, according to a White House fact sheet.
“This is a landmark achievement for conservation, protection and enhancement of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will serve as a new custodian of the marine reserve. “Approximately one quarter of the species here are found nowhere else in the world and a marine national monument will provide comprehensive, permanent protection to this region.”
President Bush also emphasized the importance of cooperation and consultation in the creation of the monument. A four-year process of meetings and public sessions, involving Hawaiian state officials, native Hawaiian leaders and others, preceded the declaration
The action is being lauded by nongovernmental environmental organizations.
"President Bush's action today spotlights ocean health on the world stage," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit organization that works for stringent environmental protection policies. "The president has put forth an excellent model for protecting marine resources that we hope will be replicated elsewhere in the United States and throughout the world. We now have an opportunity to build on this action by calling for the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in international waters, and we urge world leaders to follow the President's lead."
The creation of the Hawaiian Islands Monument is one element of the Bush administration’s Ocean Action Plan. That initiative also has directed federal agencies to develop new plans to coordinate their efforts to address marine waste. The president is also seeking congressional action to end over-fishing, restore fisheries and develop a well-managed system of offshore aquaculture. (See related article.)
The transcript of President Bush’s remarks is available on the White House Web site, as is a fact sheet on the monument.
For additional information, see the electronic journal Shared Oceans, Shared Future and the Web site of the Natural Resources Defense Council.