On Thursday, President Bush set aside 140,000 square miles of the Hawaiian Archipelago and created a new protected area that is hailed as the "world's largest marine sanctuary." Conrad Lautenbacher of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes the move as "the single-largest act of ocean conservation in history." In a surprise decision, Bush chose to designate the space a Marine National Monument under the 1906 National Antiquities Act. The area's national monument status grants the the government more immediate and greater power to protect this region of islands, atolls, coral reefs and seamounts than a National Marine Sanctuary designation. It will be managed by NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is Bush's second creation of a national monument.Already, some groups hoping to protect Pacific fishing interests are planning to fight complete closure of fishing in the area.
The archipelago contains almost 70% of the tropical shallow water coral reefs in the US and is home to more than 7,000 species including the endangered monk seal, black-footed albatross and green turtle. More than a fourth of these species are endemic. The monument will be the largest no-take marine conservation area in the world.