View Full Version : Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to become a monument

June 16th, 2006, 12:56 PM
President Bush this morning is expected to establish the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument by far the largest protected area of any kind in the country and the world's largest marine refuge.

Designation as a monument means tight restrictions on most kinds of activities including fishing, hunting and harvesting to protect more than 7,000 species of living things, a quarter of which are unique to the Hawaiian Islands. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds nest on the sand banks and rocks. The waters contain the world's only remaining ecosystem where predators like sharks, ulua or jacks, and big snappers dominate.

"When you add it all up, it's a world-class ecological jewel. From both a national and global perspective, this really is a landmark conservation event," said Joshua Reichert, head of the environment program for the private Pew Charitable Trusts, which is studying buying out the the permits of the eight bottomfishing boats that operate in the islands.

The monument's dimensions will span 140,000 square miles over the atolls, reefs and land masses that extend 1,200 miles north of Kaua'i. There is not much dry land here a few volcanic rocks, some sand bars and coral banks but its mid-oceanic isolation has protected both marine and bird life.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are part of the State of Hawai'i, except for Midway Atoll, which is U.S. territory.

The historic decision to name it a monument stunned Washington bureaucrats and conservation groups alike. Just yesterday morning, all were expecting a presidential announcement of support for a national marine sanctuary in the region a process that has been under way for five years and had a year left to go.

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