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Bush Creates World's Largest Marine Reserve

President Bush has created the world's largest marine reserve. Mr. Bush acted to protect an area of the Pacific Ocean that is roughly the size of California.

More than 7,000 species of marine life live in a chain of reefs and shoals stretching nearly 2,000 kilometers northwest from the Hawaiian Islands.

That ecosystem is now a protected marine area where commercial and sport fishing will be phased out over the next five years. Visitors wishing to dive or take photographs must have a permit and no one will be allowed to remove animals or minerals.

President Bush says the move protects a precious natural resource and establishes an important place for research and learning.

"The oceans contain countless natural treasures," he said. "They carry much of our trade. They provide food and recreation for billions of people. We have a responsibility, a solemn responsibility, to be good stewards of the oceans and creatures who inhabit them."

The islands include endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green sea turtles as well as a rookery for 14 million seabirds.

At more than 300,000 square kilometers, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument is slightly larger than Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, making it the world's biggest protected marine area.

It includes the World War II memorial on Midway Island, which will remain open for research and education programs.

President Theodore Roosevelt established a bird sanctuary on some of the islands in 1909. President Bill Clinton created a coral-reef ecosystem reserve in the area six years ago. By exercising executive powers to declare the islands a national monument, President Bush avoided what would have been a year-long review process to make the area a less-protected national marine sanctuary.