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Bush casts wide net for marine conservation

  • Story Highlights
  • Sites cover 195,280 square miles, world's largest expanse set aside for conservation
  • Bush designates 9 sites in 3 areas of central Pacific as marine national monuments
  • Sites include Wake, Johnston, Palmyra, Baker, Howland, Jarvis, Marianas Islands
  • Rose Atoll, Kingman Reef also designated
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(CNN) -- Nine sites in the central Pacific will be set as sanctuaries for marine life and bases of research for scientists, President Bush said Tuesday.

The new designated areas make up the largest area of ocean set aside for marine conservation in the world.

The new designated areas make up the largest area of ocean set aside for marine conservation in the world.

The sites, designated in three regions of the central Pacific, will make up the largest expanse of ocean set aside for marine conservation in the world: 195,280 square miles.

"For sea birds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive. For scientists, they will be places to extend the frontiers of discovery," Bush said.

"And for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty's creation."

For the designation, Bush used the 1906 Antiquities Act, which President Theodore Roosevelt first used to set aside public lands such as the Grand Canyon as national monuments. Many areas created under the act later became national parks.Video Watch Bush dedicate the central Pacific sites »

The Marine Conservation Biology Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund partnered to identify eight of the nine sites the president set aside Tuesday. All but one of those eight remote areas have Fish and Wildlife Service refuge areas at their cores.

The eight sites are Rose Atoll, Wake Island, Johnston Island, Palmyra Island, Kingman Reef, Baker Island, Howland Island and Jarvis Island.

Rose Atoll, part of American Samoa, is the smallest atoll in the world, but more than 500 fish species swim in the waters around it, and it supports 97 percent of America Samoa's seabird population. It is also the nesting ground for several threatened turtle species.

The Pew Environmental Fund identified the ninth site: the waters around the northern Marianas and the deepest ocean canyon in the world, the Mariana Trench, 11,033 meters (36,201 feet) at its deepest.

The new designations will expand protection to a 50 nautical mile area off the islands, where commercial fishing will be prohibited. Other uses of the area -- research or recreational fishing -- will be allowed but will require a permit.

Bush also announced that the United States will submit a request to establish George Washington's Virginia home, Mount Vernon, and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument as UNESCO world heritage sites.


UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Bush designated 138,000 square miles in Hawaii two years ago, making Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument the "largest fully protected marine area in the world," Bush said.

CNN's KC Wildmoon contributed to this report.

All About George W. Bush

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