Bush to Consider Expanding Marine Protection Areas

On Aug. 25, President George Bush sent a memo to several cabinet secretaries, asking them to make an assessment and then recommend whether to designate specific areas in the Pacific as marine protected areas. The areas under consideration include the remote islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean -- the Rose Atoll near American Samoa and the waters surrounding the northern Mariana Islands.

These areas are host to some of the world's most bio-diverse coral reefs and habitat and some of the most interesting and compelling geological formations in all of the oceans. This is the first step in a process.

In 2004, the President issued his Ocean Action Plan to promote an ethic or responsible use and preservation of our oceans and the coastal resources.

Joshua S. Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, issued the following statement in response to President Bush's announcement of new areas in U.S. ocean waters that will be assessed for possible protection as marine sanctuaries or monuments.

"Two years ago President Bush set a new standard for global ocean protection when he established the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest marine protected area in the world, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Today's announcement … is a hopeful sign for ocean conservation."

Reichert noted that "Monument or sanctuary designation by itself does not necessarily convey a high degree of protection and could allow a host of activities including commercial and recreational fishing and deep sea mining, among others. However, if the President establishes these new sites as no-take reserves, where no extractive activity is allowed, it would be one of the most significant environmental achievements of any U.S. president.

"One of the potential sites is in the waters off the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific. In addition to containing some of the world's most unspoiled ocean habitats and unique species of marine life, this area encompasses the world's deepest canyon, the Mariana Trench, which at nearly 36,000 feet. Protecting places such as these preserves their unique biological and ecological characteristics, increases the abundance of fish and other marine life, and often creates a source of economic vitality for the local area through jobs generated by tourism, research and education, and monument management," Reichert said.

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