President Bush creates three Pacific Ocean National Monuments

Posted By on January 7, 2009

Bush sign docs with FitialFor those of us concerned with protecting the worlds’ oceans, President George W. Bush signing documents with Benigno R. Fitial, governor of the U.S. Commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands establishing the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009 is a positive step.  The  signing creates three new “national monuments” in the Pacific Ocean in order to protect this marine environment and its pristine coral reefs.  The includes the seven mile deep Mariana Trench  as well as the Palmyra Atoll.

Pacific monuments graphic

Here’s an article from the  the San Jose Mercury News below:

Bush protects unique areas across the Pacific
San Jose Mercury News — By Paul Rogers
Posted: 01/06/2009 06:09:57 PM PST

President Bush on Tuesday established three new national monuments in the Pacific Ocean, setting aside for permanent protection pristine coral reefs, the world’s deepest underwater canyon and marine environments teeming with tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays and giant clams.

Ranging from the seven-mile-deep Mariana Trench near Guam to the tiny Palmyra Atoll 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, the new monuments are spread out across the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the California coast.

But despite their remoteness, they have close links with Bay Area marine scientists, who cheered the news.

“These places are like time machines. They provide us a window as to how oceans looked prior to many of the negative impacts of human activities,” said Healy Hamilton, an evolutionary biologist with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

“It’s one of the most important moves in marine conservation in recent decades.”

The move follows a similar action by Bush in 2006 to establish a new monument in the northern Hawaiian islands. Combined with the latest announcement, Bush has now protected more ocean area than any president in history.

Tuesday’s monuments total 195,000 square miles, an area 36 times the size of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and more than 20 percent larger than California.

Hamilton has worked at Palmyra Atoll studying the DNA of coral reef species, particularly octopuses. Getting there, she said, involves chartering a 14-seat plane in Hawaii, at a cost of $25,000, for a four-hour flight from Honolulu.A chain of 50 small islets, Palmyra is so isolated it has never been permanently inhabited by humans, or commercially fished, so it offers one of the world’s rare opportunities to study ocean life in a truly untouched environment.

The California Academy and Stanford University both have researchers working at Palmyra Atoll, as part of a partnership started over the past decade.

The island’s laboratory — complete with kayaks and high-speed satellite Internet access — was built with a $1.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, funded by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore of Woodside.

Privately owned until 2001, the island was purchased for $37 million by the Nature Conservancy with funding from several foundations including Moore and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in Los Altos.

It is home to green sea turtles, coconut forests and five times as many species of coral as Hawaii. Stanford researchers use the island as a priceless teaching tool, said Steve Palumbi, a professor of marine biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove.

“We sent a bunch of undergraduates there last year, and half the day they studied coral reef ecosystems, and the other half they studied how coconut crabs the size of a softball feed on the vegetation of these islands,” Palumbi said. “The other part of the day they jumped in the water with more small reef sharks than you have ever seen.”

Bush established the three monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, a law that allows presidents to set aside areas without approval from Congress. Commercial fishing, oil drilling, mining and waste dumping will now be prohibited there.

“For seabirds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive,” Bush said. “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 are:

  • The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, near Guam, which includes the world’s deepest point, at 36,201 feet deep, and its surrounding undersea volcanoes and thermal vents.
  • The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which is made up of seven areas to the south and west of Hawaii: Palmyra Atoll, Wake Island, Kingman Reef, and Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands, along with Johnston Atoll, a key habitat for Hawaiian monk seals, and famous for nuclear weapons tests in early 1960s.
  • The Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, a diamond-shaped island east of American Samoa that includes rare species of nesting petrels, shearwaters and terns, along with giant clams, reef sharks and rose-colored corals.The United States has jurisdiction over fishing and other commercial rules in the areas because all the islands are U.S. territories.The new status will provide some protection for species that migrate great distances from California across the Pacific, including white sharks, yellow fin tuna, green sea turtles and albatrosses.Environmentalists said Tuesday the news, while heartening, does not offset Bush’s numerous other efforts over the years to weaken environmental laws, increase offshore oil drilling or his leaving office without passing mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases.”These actions are substantive. They absolutely have value,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “But they are also noncontroversial. There are not a lot of stakeholders who are going to be objecting to protecting a distant part of the Pacific. But we should be glad about them.”
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