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Hawaiian ocean sanctuary will protect over 7,000 species
I live near the ocean. Having grown up in land-locked states I lived in ignorance of the ocean biosphere. But now I see how our actions as far away as a thousand miles impacts the ocean with sediment and polluted runoff. Oceans are majestic wilderness systems beyond comprehension. Their size, their diversity, their fluidity are surreal to landlubbers.
The ocean doesn't seem like our "backyard", but more and more, the backyard practices of our growing population and inadequate stewardship are polluting the ocean. Our holiday adventures are destroying the underwater ecosystems, and our backyard BBQs are supplied with fish from our rapidly depleted ocean fisheries. The marine ecosystem is under distress and attention is finally making us aware that only about 10% of the natural fish population now populates our oceans. Ten percent. Need I say more?
That's why this story about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands marine sanctuary is hopeful ... and an important bellwether of conservation actions that can help restore the health of our shared ocean habitat.
June 15, 2006 – Washington, DC -- President George W. Bush has announced his intention to establish the world’s largest marine protected area – over 84 million acres - to safeguard a remote, biologically rich string of islands and submerged lands known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). These are the most intact tropical marine ecosystems under US jurisdiction.
There have been endeavors to protect the area since the days of President Teddy Roosevelt, including the designation of the area as an ecosystem reserve by President Bill Clinton, Hawai'i Governor Linda Lingle’s action last year to protect all state waters in the region from commercial activities and efforts by Hawai’i’s Congressional delegation.
“This an unprecedented win for endangered Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, black-footed albatrosses, tiger sharks, the incredible reef corals in these waters, the people of Hawai'i and all Americans, now and in generations to come,” said Marine Conservation Biology Institute President Dr. Elliott Norse. “It’s the start of a new era of protecting places in the sea before they’re degraded beyond recognition. In my opinion, this is the best thing President Bush has done for the environment."
"The President is creating the world's largest marine protected area. It's as important as the establishment of Yellowstone," said Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp.
At over 84 million acres in size, the proposed marine sanctuary is more than 38 times larger than Yellowstone National Park, and larger than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Following the process for scientific and public input outlined by Congress, the Bush Administration has developed a plan that will manage the sanctuary to protect the marine animals, coral reefs and seabird breeding habitat in one of the most remote coral reef ecosystems on Earth. Over 7,000 species are found in the region, at least one-third of which are unique to Hawai'i.
"The Native Hawaiian community has been at the forefront of protection efforts,” said `Ilio`ulaokalani Coalition President Vicky Holt Takamine. “If these rules can be strengthened to prevent commercial activities in the NWHI, to maintain existing protections, and to match the stringent rules for state waters of the NWHI, we have a good chance of protecting this sacred place.”
“The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are fast becoming a magnet for large research vessels and questionable research," said KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance Executive Director Cha Smith. “It will be of great importance to ensure that research is limited to activities necessary for management and restoration efforts and that educational activities bring the place to people and not take people to the place. "
KAHEA is an alliance of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) cultural practitioners, environmental activists and others concerned with protecting customary and traditional rights and Hawai`i’s fragile environment. www.kahea.org
`Ilio`ulaokalani Coalition. is an island-wide grassroots organization comprised of kumu (master teachers) and loea (cultural experts) whose purpose is to link and apply traditional Hawaiian cultural principles, practices and skills to effect educational, social, environmental and economic change for the betterment and advancement of native Hawaiians and the community at large.