It’s unclear at the moment whether the White House will take the same regulatory approach now. Mr. Bush could establish vast no-take zones, perhaps with exceptions to allow indigenous people to fish there. Or, he could merely endorse the concept of preserving these areas and punt the decision to the incoming Obama administration.
Still, hopes are high that Bush will grant full protection to these areas. “The condition of the oceans is degrading, and it’s really been degrading for coral reefs. It’s important to preserve these last few relatively untouched parts of the ocean,” Dr. Heinemann says.
The latest effort builds on the 2006 Hawaii designation, says Jay Nelson, who heads the global ocean legacy program at the Pew Environment Group in Washington. Following that designation, the White House asked federal agencies, nongovernment groups, and the research community for more candidates. These included deep-sea coral networks off the US Southeast Coast and a proposal to establish a string of marine protected areas along the continental shelf from Florida to Belize.
In the end, the Marianas and Line Islands were the last candidates standing.