President Bush Enhances His Environmental Legacy
by Bill Chameides | January 6th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)
In 2006 President Bush protected a large swath of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands through a marine monument. Now, he is adding to this legacy, preserving three new areas in the Pacific Ocean.
Today President Bush will add a triumvirate to his environmental legacy – the establishment of three new national marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Despite the rest of his environmental record, Bush should be credited for these green jewels.
From an environmental point of view the past eight years have not given us a lot to cheer about. There was the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), the on again, off again, and now on again rule to limit nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions from power plants. And there was in my opinion a true highlight – the setting aside of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as a national monument. Now there will be more: the establishment of three new marine reserves in the Pacific Ocean.
Three New Monuments Hold Rare Wonders
Spanning an area of more than 195,000 square miles, the three areas designated for preservation represent some of the most pristine and unique marine environments in the Pacific (see news story). Several uninhabited islands in the Marianas chain are being protected, as well as the Mariana Trench itself, the world’s deepest ocean canyon. In this underwater trench, resembling a combination of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon, marine life thrives around hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, and pools of boiling sulfur. The area islands host a number of whale species, including the rare beaked whales, as well as healthy shark populations and endangered seabirds.
Other areas being preserved include American Samoa’s Rose Atoll (see also pdf) — whose lagoon and coral reefs are home to the region’s largest concentration of nesting sea turtles, birds, and giant clams — and the waters and coral reefs surrounding the central Pacific’s Line Islands.
The Line Island reefs serve as feeding stations for migratory fish and seabirds, and support scientific research of undisturbed reef systems as well as a rare example of an inverted food pyramid — the strange case where more animals sit at the top of the food chain than at its base.
Great News but …
Finally, before we get too ecstatic, let’s keep in mind a couple of important factors. First, the scope of the designation prevents fishing and other extractive uses for only 60 percent of the monument, so it falls short of the no-take reserve some had hoped for.
Furthermore, the setting aside of marine reserves in three remote regions of the world does not solve the problem of conserving the resources and wonders of the ocean. And some of those problems are a lot closer to home. There are plenty of unique and important marine areas off our Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and many of our fisheries are failing or in danger of failing. Let’s hope the new president can build on the momentum of President Bush’s steps in marine conservationfiled under: animals, coral reefs, faculty, oceans
and: Line Islands, Mariana Trench, Northwest Hawaiian Island Marine Monument, Pacific Ocean, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Rose Atoll