On Saturday, while speaking at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s new ocean exhibit, President Bush announced that California’s Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary would be expanded by 585 nautical miles. It will now include an underwater volcano that in its surroundings is home to a diverse spectrum of ocean life, including corals.
Bush also said that he would like to create several new marine sanctuaries in the Pacific Ocean. His actions to protect oceans might be one of the few positive environmental legacies from his presidency.
After the environmental actions and record of the Bush Administration were hammered last week in the Senate, we can only wonder if Bush’s speaking appearance at the opening of Smithsonian’s Sant Ocean Hall was made with more urgency. Unfortunately for Bush, he chose to make his important conservation announcement on the same day as the first presidential debate of the 2008 U.S. election (or was this intentional?).
If you were not aware already, you might be surprised to know that in 2006 Bush created the world’s largest ocean protected area in an area northwest of Hawaii. The areas he now envisions protecting in the Pacific would likewise be of huge scale in comparison to other ocean protected areas. According to the White House’s webpage, Bush said the following earlier this year:
We have a solemn responsibility to care for our seas and show concern for the plant and animal life that inhabit them. Oceans bring enjoyment and prosperity to countless people, from boating and fishing, to transporting goods, to traveling the waterways. By being good stewards of the oceans, we can ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the great blessings of our natural heritage.
Science is showing that oceans are now more threatened than ever, and so conservation efforts are consequentially more crucial than ever. A coalition recently proposed for the creation of what would become the world’s largest protected ocean area in Australia’s spectacular, pristine Coral Sea. The efforts of Bush to protect oceans would likewise be welcome, especially given his administration’s lack of regard and disdain for other environmental issues.