Greenwash: Bush Creates World's Largest Marine Park
Gumbel, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
President George Bush has announced that he intends to create the world's largest marine conservation area across a broad swath of the Pacific, surprising and delighting his environmentalist critics who have had little but withering criticism of the "toxic Texan" over the past five and a half years.
The marine sanctuary, tentatively named the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, will cover 140,000 square miles, stretching from Hawaii to Midway Atoll, site of a Second World War battle between the United States and Japan. It includes small islands, atolls and many precious coral reefs. The area is home to about 14 million seabirds, including albatrosses and terns, as well as green turtles, monk seals and spinner dolphins. It contains about 7,000 indigenous animal and bird species found nowhere else in the world.
The sanctuary, which may eventually be given a native Hawaiian name, will be slightly larger than Australia's Great Barrier Reef - currently the largest marine protected area in the world - and cover an area bigger than all the United States' existing marine sanctuaries and land-bound national parks combined. Commercial activity will be banned, and the eight fishing boats currently permitted to enter the area will have their licences phased out over the next five years.
Environmentalists, more used to heaping scorn on a Bush administration that has consistently eroded protections for national parks and forests on land, were unambiguous in their praise and said they hoped to see the White House do more of the same in future.
"We're ecstatic. This is a major step forward for the United States, and we're hopeful this signals a new approach to marine conservation," said Lisa Speer, an oceans specialist with a lobby group, the National Resources Defence Council.
She said she now hoped the US would take the lead in protecting other coral habitats on the high seas.
Just this week, the United Nations was conducting talks on ways to mitigate the threat to deep-ocean coral reefs from bottom-trawl fishing, and Ms Speer said she hoped the White House's initiative would give a decisive push to the conservationist cause.
Politically, there were grounds to be sceptical about the initiative, with some thinking it could be a "greenwash". The Bush administration is badly in need of some positive coverage in the run- up to November's mid-term elections, and it could be seen as a bid for popularity.
Unlike many of the national parks and forests in the continental US, the marine area in the Pacific is not eyed jealously by energy or mining interests with close ties to the White House. …