A monumental decision for the oceans

06 January 2009 | International news release

President Bush today will formally designate three areas in the Pacific as Marine National Monuments. IUCN has been one of the major partners of the U.S. Government in the creation of these marine protected areas. The scientific and technical advice provided by IUCN to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has paid off, as it will result in the creation of the world’s largest ocean protected area covering 195,280 square miles.

The three new Marine National Monuments include two regions of the Line Islands that span the central Pacific and an area in the western Pacific which encompasses the northern Marianas chain and the Mariana Trench – the deepest ocean canyon in the world. Together these new protected areas boast enormous biodiversity both in terms of species and habitats.

"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."

"This significant act protecting the deepest part of our oceans comes over 100 years since the United States protected the deepest place on land, the Grand Canyon. Recognition of the need to fully protect large areas of ocean has been growing in recent years – we hope that this will be followed by other nations around the world," said Dan Laffoley, Marine Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas who led on the IUCN advice to CEQ.

"The U.S. Government is to be applauded for its significant efforts in adding to the U.S. and global marine protected estate," said Scott Hajost, Executive Director of IUCN U.S.

However, conservation of the designated areas appears not to be complete.

"We would hope that the whole Mariana Trench – and not only the bottom – is protected. If fishing in this surface water continues, then many of the rare deep sea creatures living in the trench will starve," said Lundin.

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," added Lundin,