World’s Largest Marine Sanctuary

September 2, 2008 / 12 Comments

We usually get really excited when things on Earth happen the way they should and that’s what could happen now that President Bush has made a public proposal last week. He wants all the 15 islands in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and parts of the islands in the Pacific to be granted the national-monument status, which would lead to the world’s largest marine reserve on the planet as big as Texas and Alaska combined.

“Life on Earth changes all the time, but these are like time machines that take us back to the time when humans didn’t impact coral reefs in any significant ways,” said Enric Sala, a marine ecologist and National Geographic fellow and emerging explorer.

small isle near saipan island Worlds Largest Marine SanctuaryAerial view of a small pristine isle near Island Saipan

large ancient lobe coral in kingman reef Worlds Largest Marine SanctuaryLarge ancient lobe coral in Kingman Reef, studied by an ecologist

Rich coral ecosystem in the lush Palmyra Atoll

Gray reef sharks patrol Kingman Reef

Masked boobie in Palmyra Atoll

“These places are completely different from what we know anywhere else. They’re totally dominated by their predators. Imagine the Serengeti with five lions per wildebeest. This is Kingman Reef,” said Enric Sala

The proposal is great, but can we be sure these pristine reefs won’t be “vandalized” by fishing or other similar activities. Let’s hope so because it’s too beautiful.

All photographs by Paul Chesley/NGS