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Hawaii now has world's largest marine sanctuary

Ocean off Hawaii's island of Kauai

KAI RYSSDAL: President Bush announced plans today to create the largest marine reserve in the world. It's a 1,400-mile chain of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Technically it'll be a National Monument. And Sam Eaton reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk it might be a monument to something else, too.


SAM EATON: The scale is hard to imagine. At 140,000 square-miles, the reserve beats out Australia's Great Barrier Reef as the world's largest sanctuary. It's also bigger than all of the US national parks put together. Joshua Reichert is with the Pew Charitable Trust, which has been pushing for the sanctuary for eight years. He hopes today's designation is just the beginning of a new era of ocean protections.
JOSHUA REICHERT: This at both a substance level and symbolically will help to encourage more efforts that are similar in nature. And there certainly are a lot of other places in the world that merit this level of protection and hopefully they'll get it in the years to come.

But Reichert admits economics, or the lack thereof, may have greased the wheels. For one thing, no one lives there. And for another, the new sanctuary is remote, about 150-miles from Kauai. That's kept fishing interests relatively small. A rare thing in today's busy Oceans. But Hawaii Congressman Ed Case says sanctuaries create tangible benefits to those living on the fringes.

ED CASE: Many of the spawning grounds for example of the marine species of the main Hawaiian Islands are in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. And so to the extent that we take care of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands we also address the main fisheries of the main Hawaiian Islands which have been under increasing pressure.

Some of Case's colleagues in the Senate are less optimistic. As Congress cuts funding to the sanctuary's main enforcer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they wonder who will be left with the bill to keep this newly protected area . . . protected.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.
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