Yesterday, President George W. Bush set aside 195,000 square miles of Pacific ocean habitat under executive authority granted by the Antiquities Act. He created three new national monuments which ban seafloor mining, most commercial fishing, and limit recreational and indigenous harvest.
The new areas include the waters surrounding Howland, Baker, Jarvis and Wake islands; Rose, Palmyra and Johnston atolls; Kingman Reef; the three northernmost Mariana Islands; and the deep seafloor of the Mariana Trench.
And with a stroke of his pen, W. protected more ocean than any other political leader in history and earned his blue legacy.
Sure, these are not the most important places to protect and in some regions enforcement will be extremely challenging, but let’s face it, any protection is good and at least it’s a step in the right direction… as long as the move doesn’t prevent us from taking more important action in the future by using up political capital.
I hope readers continue to remember that–monuments or not–around the world our marine realm is in serious trouble due to acidification, trophic cascades, overharvest, oil drilling, coral reef degradation, pollution, algal blooms, destructive fishing practices, empty oceans and on and on. So praise the sitting President for doing a bit of good on his way out of office, but stay vigilant.
As oceans go, so goes the planet.