07 January 2009

U.S. declares largest marine reserve

"The largest area of protected sea in the world" around the US Pacific islands territories will ban commercial fishing and mining.

The area totals 500,000 sq km of sea and sea floor and includes the Marianas Trench, the deepest area of ocean on the planet, and some of the islands most remote from the world's large populations centres, which have not so far encountered the intense fishing present across much of the oceans. It encompasses some of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, undersea volcanoes and hot seafloor vents, and submarine pools of sulphur thought to be unique on Earth.

While welcoming the protection package, environmental activists said that without curbing climate change, the other measures would be meaningless.

Some comments so far

Center for Biological Diversity

"Unless we deal with global warming, all other protective measures for coral reefs will be rendered meaningless," said Brendan Cummings, oceans programme director at the Center for Biological Diversity which has brought several court actions against the Bush administration on climate change. "Ultimately, Bush's legacy as a climate criminal will far outweigh his ocean legacy, as any benefit coral reefs receive from this monument designation will be bleached away by warming seas."

National Geographic

"We should be very happy because it's the largest marine area ever protected," said Enric Sala, a marine ecologist and National Geographic fellow and emerging explorer. "This is the only chance we have left to protect parts of the ocean that are still natural."

Conservation International

For scientists, the designations are "wonderful opportunities," said Roger McManus, vice president for global marine programs at the environmental group Conservation International. "You don't get a better natural laboratory than we have in these places."


"This is a great way to start 2009,"exclaims Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the IUCN Global Marine Programme. "It demonstrates the ability of marine conservation to bring humanity together in protecting some of the most unique ocean areas in the world." He adds: "While we can’t forget that fighting climate change remains a major challenge to assure the future of the oceans, increasing the number of marine protected areas is an absolute must. Dramatically improving high seas governance should also be a top priority. We must now hope that the incoming U.S. Administration will build on today’s announcement and give our oceans the attention they deserve,"

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