00760I woke up this morning to some exciting news – President Bush has designated Rose Atoll as a U.S. National Monument.

Rose Atoll is a place that is very close to my heart. In the mid-1990s, I worked as a marine scientist for the American Samoan Government, and I was extremely fortunate to visit the atoll twice.

Rose is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been. The reef is dominated by pink crustose coralline algae, so it is pink.  And I don’t just mean pink, I mean PINK! (See the image above.) It is a bright pink reef surrounded by deep blue ocean, so the colours are outrageously beautiful.

Rose is also very remote, so the visibility is spectacular. Diving off the edge of the reef with 100+ft visibility, spectacular dropoffs (thousands of meters deep) and large schools of reef fishes was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The island is also a major nesting area for seabirds and turtles, so there were megafauna everywhere. In fact on one trip, we had to keep driving our boat around a pod of humpback whales so we could get to our dive sites!  At first it was very exciting to see them, but have you ever tried to count fish with whales singing right behind you? Extraordinarily beautiful, unforgettable, but impossible!

When I visited Rose Atoll in the 1990s, it was already protected as a National Wildlife Refuge. However, it was still fished occasionally and it was also the site of a major shipwreck.

Hopefully, the extension of the protected area out to 50 nautical miles from the atoll — and its higher protected area status as a National Monument — will provide a stronger basis for the national and territorial governments to protect this extraordinary place in the long term.

(Image: Rose Atoll National Monument. Credit: Phillip Colla.)

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