Friday, June 16, 2006

President Bush Creates Largest Conservation Area

President Bush signed a proclamation on June 15, 2006 to designate waters in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument. The Northwestern Islands Marine National Monument is now the largest single conservation area in the history of our country, the largest protected marine area in the world and will receive America’s highest form of marine environmental protection.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are 10 beautiful islands and atolls that stretch over 1,400 miles - - the distance from Chicago to Miami. In the tropical waters surrounding the archipelago, there are more than 4,500 square miles of coral reef habitat thriving under the surface. These undersea forests and mountain ranges comprise the largest remote reef system in the world. And this region holds the largest and healthiest untouched coral reef system in the United States. The total national monument covers nearly 140,000 square miles. This national monument is more than 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park, larger than 46 of our 50 states, and more than seven times larger than all our national marine sanctuaries combined

These reefs burst with life: Great predators, like the white tip reef shark and the spinner dolphins and the Trevally jacks. The archipelago is home to more than 7,000 marine species. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are also the primary home for nearly 1,400 surviving Hawaiian Monk Seals. They are the breeding grounds for approximately 90 percent of the threatened Hawaiian Island Green Sea Turtle population.

The action preserves access for native Hawaiian cultural activities, prohibits unauthorized passage of ships; prohibits unauthorized recreational or commercial activity; prohibits any resource extraction or dumping of waste, and over a five-year period, phases out commercial fishing. (Source: President Bush speech)

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