Three New Marine Protected Areas Are Largest Designation in History
Arlington, VA – President Bush’s designation today of three
marine national monuments in the central Pacific Ocean is an historic
contribution to marine conservation, but raises questions of how these protected
areas will be managed, said Roger McManus, vice president for Global Marine
Programs at Conservation International.
McManus praised Bush for protecting more marine environment than any person
in history, but noted that effective conservation requires maintaining the fish
stocks and other species of the ocean ecosystems. He expressed concern that
legal provisions allowing potential recreational and other non-commercial
fishing can cause problems.
“Coral reef ecosystems can suffer major changes by significant removal of
marine life for whatever the purpose,” McManus said.
As an example, McManus said the U.S. Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary
in American Samoa has suffered from intensive illegal overfishing by island
residents due to lack of proper management. One of the three new federal marine
monuments declared by Bush – the Rose Atoll Marine National
Monument – will be primarily managed by the Department of
Commerce, which also oversees the Fagatele Bay sanctuary.
Under the U.S. Antiquities Act, presidents have the authority to unilaterally
designate National Monuments. Bush previously established the largest no-take
marine reserve in the world – the Papahanaumokuakea Marine
National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands – and
the three new monuments declared today enhance his legacy of ocean
The new monuments comprise the largest designation of marine protected areas
in history, encompassing approximately 195,000 square miles –
an area larger than California. All three sites include important coral reef
ecosystems, and their designation as national monuments is intended to protect
them from over-fishing, land-associated pollution and other harmful human
activities. The remoteness of the sites and the protection they receive also
should help build their resilience to climate change, which is a major threat to
coral reefs worldwide.
The three new monuments include the marine areas around the three
northernmost Mariana Islands, including the Mariana Trench and associated active
underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents; Rose Atoll in American Samoa, and
seven remote U.S. islands in the Central Pacific – Kingman Reef
and Palmyra Atoll, Howland and Baker islands, and Jarvis, Johnston Atoll and
The islands and surrounding territorial waters of the monuments already are
largely protected as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuges administered by the
Department of the Interior under the National Wildlife Refuge System
The North Mariana Islands include spectacular near shore and off shore reefs,
among the most isolated in the world. The chief threat to the offshore reefs has
been illegal fishing by foreign flagged vessels. Monument designations include
the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in the ocean, which only has been visited
once by humans through the deep sea vessel the Trieste in 1960.
island sites and those of the neighboring Line Islands and Phoenix Islands of
the nation of Kiribati have been the focus of increasing research to better
understand the ecology of coral reef ecosystems and their conservation. The more
remote coral reef ecosystems, including Howland and Baker islands and Kingman
Reef, are examples of how these ecosystems function and look without significant
threats from humans.
McManus said monument designation should stimulate additional research and
highlight the opportunities and need for increased coral reef conservation in
the monuments and elsewhere in the world where reefs occur. He also called for
accelerated international collaboration for coral reef conservation in the
The United States and the nation of Kiribati already are signatories to a
treaty for managing fisheries in the area, and several other international
conservation efforts for the region will benefit from monument designations.
Conservation International (CI) and the New England Aquarium played a
significant role in assisting Kiribati in establishing the Phoenix Islands
Protected Area, the single largest marine protected area in the world.
"The coral reef ecosystems of these new protected areas teem with marine life
that is vital for healthy oceans and people who depend on them for survival,"
Vice President, Marine Programs