August 25, 2008

U.S. To Check Need for Marine Conservation

President George Bush directed three top officials Monday to assess whether parts of the Pacific Ocean under U.S. control need more environmental protection.

The president directed the secretaries of defense, interior and commerce to provide him with "relevant supporting information" about whether it would be a good thing to increase protection or conservation and management of islands, coral reefs, geologic features and surrounding marine waters.

However, he said, any recommendations should not limit the military from carrying out its missions, counter international law or impinge on freedom on navigation.

"Please also consider cultural, environmental, economic and multiple use implications of any measures you recommend ... ," Bush said.

Bush cited Johnston Atoll; Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands; Kingman Reef; Palmyra Atoll; Wake Island; Rose Atoll and the northern islands of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in his directive.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto, speaking to reporters at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, called the memo the first step in a process.

"These areas are host to some of the world's most bio-diverse coral reefs and habitat, and some of the most interesting and compelling geological formations in all of our oceans," Fratto said. "These agencies will go out and assess the appropriateness of these areas to be considered for marine area protections."