President George W. Bush created a vast new marine sanctuary on Thursday, extending stronger federal protections to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the surrounding waters with their endangered monk seals, nesting green sea turtles and other rare species.
The newest national monument covers an archipelago 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers) long and 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide in the Pacific Ocean. It's home to more than 7,000 species, at least one-fourth of them found nowhere else.
"To put this area in context, this national monument is more than 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park," Bush said. "It's larger than 46 of our 50 states, and more than seven times larger than all our national marine sanctuaries combined. This is a big deal,"reports AP.
According to NPR, scientists say the area provides a rare example of the way oceans are supposed to be.
Marine biologist Christopher Lowe, a professor at the California State University at Long Beach, knows this stretch of the Pacific well from countless hours on boats and diving under the surface. He says above the water, the island chain is somewhat bland. Most of the islands are barren sand or rock. But underwater, the coral reefs are spectacular.
"It's not uncommon to see a dozen gray reef sharks or Galapagos sharks -- and these sharks range from four-to-nine-feet-long -- just swimming along, watching you, or to be surrounded by a school of 40-to-50-pound jacks," Lowe says.
"It's the single-largest act of ocean conservation in history. It's a large milestone," Lautenbacher said. "It is a place to maintain biodiversity and to maintain basically the nurseries of the Pacific. It spawns a lot of the life that permeates the middle of the Pacific Ocean."
It is only the second time that Bush has invoked the 1906 National Antiquities Act, which gives the president authority to create national monuments to preserve the nation's ancient cultural sites and unusual geological features. The law itself turned 100 this month.
The president had planned as late as Wednesday to use instead the National Marine Sanctuary Act, a law that would allow challenges from Congress and others to the decision, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage Bush, informs Forbes.
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