President George W. Bush created three new national monuments encompassing hundreds of thousands of miles of the Pacific ocean today, declaring the largest protected area of ocean in history.
According to the Associated Press,
The areas include the home of a giant land crab, a sunken island ringed by pink-colored coral, and equatorial waters teeming with sharks and other predators and total some 195,274 square miles. Included in the new designation formally announced by Bush at the White House are the Mariana Trench and the waters and corals surrounding three uninhabited islands in the Northern Mariana Islands, Rose Atoll in American Samoa and seven islands strung along the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.
Bush called the new monuments “beautiful” and “biologically diverse.”
“For sea birds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive,” Bush said during his announcement at the White House. “For scientists, they will be places to extend the frontiers of discovery. And for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty’s creation.”
The three monuments, called the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, harbor rare geologic features of the planet and unique species, including an underwater sulfur pool and a bird that incubates its eggs in the heat generated by underwater volcanoes.
Commercial fishing and other extractive activities will be forbidden in the new marine monuments, but limited recreational fishing, tourism and scientific research will be permitted.
The designations follow Bush’s establishment of a marine national monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
None of the marine national monuments in the Pacific will prevent military activities or freedom of navigation, according to White House aides.
The designations were made under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906.