Welcome, New Marine National Monuments

Lagoon at Palmyra Atoll
Lagoon at Palmyra Atoll

President Bush designated three areas in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean as Marine National Monuments today.

These monuments span 195,280 square miles and will help to protect some of the world’s most ecologically diverse marine areas.

Under the Antiquities act of 1906, a President can quickly declare an area a National Monument without the approval of Congress — unlike a National Park, which needs Congressional approval for its designation. National Monuments also receive less funding and can sometimes afford fewer protections to wildlife than National Parks.

There is no doubt, however, that the current Administration’s efforts are important for drawing attention to our depleted oceans.

“At a time when positive news about our seas is rare, the designation of three new Marine National Monuments in the Pacific is a landmark to be celebrated,” said Suzanne Case, executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Hawaii chapter, which manages Palmyra Atoll with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Palmyra Atoll is one of two of the new monuments that are found in an area of the Central Pacific typically known as the Line Islands. The Nature Conservancy’s marine conservation work in and around this remote string of islands is specifically on the Palmyra Atoll and the Kingman Reef — the two National Wildlife Refuges  included in the designation.

The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of Palmyra Atoll led to its establishment as a National Wildlife Refuge in 2001 and as a National Marine Monument today.

The third monument includes waters around some of the Mariana Islands and the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean canyon in the world.

All three regions boast some of the world’s most incredible ocean biodiversity, including one of the world’s last reef ecosystems dominated by top predators in the Central Pacific, and rare beaked whales around the Mariana Trench and nearby islands.

I’m no expert in park or monument designation, but it would seem to me that regardless of the status — be it park, monument or refuge — this designation brings the right kind of attention to our oceans, and in particular to these rare and incredibly diverse marine environments.

What do you think?

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. This is very exciting news! It is a tremendous step forward in increasing the proportion of the world’s oceans designated as marine protected areas. It also represents terrific progress towards achieving a large scale network of marine protected areas across the Pacific Ocean. Check out my blog entry on one of these places – Rose Atoll National Monument.

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