Clinton Declares Underwater Nature Preserve in Hawaii

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Last month, President Clinton established the largest protected area for wildlife in the United States. The protected area includes thirty-four-million hectares underwater around the northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. President Clinton said the action is designed to save the area's coral reefs and other wildlife.

Corals are large groups of small organisms called polyps. These polyps live in a cup-like skeleton made of a substance called limestone. Corals are found in warm, tropical waters. Millions of corals grow together to form coral reefs.

The coral reefs support many kinds of sea life. They are important to some local and national economies. Many people visit areas with coral reefs. And the reefs protect coastal communities from severe storms.

The underwater preserve contains almost seventy-percent of the coral reefs in the United States. The protection order bans oil and gas exploration in the underwater preserve. It also bans placing any material in the water. It prevents any changes to the seabed or coral in the preserve. And it restricts fishing to recent or current levels.

Mr. Clinton said coral reefs are important for several reasons. They support thousands of kinds of fish and other sea life. They produce millions of dollars for the fishing and tourism industry. And coral reefs provide new hope for medical discoveries.

But Mr. Clinton said the world's coral reefs are in danger. He said pollution, coral hunters and fishing using explosives have damaged the coral reefs. Coastal development and the effects of climate change also have harmed the reefs.

He said these harmful actions have already killed more than twenty-five percent of the world's reefs. In some areas, such as the Indian Ocean, ninety-percent of the coral reefs have died.

Some members of the Hawaiian fishing industry opposed the creation of the new preserve. They said the restrictions on current fishing levels would hurt the fishing industry in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

But environmental groups said they believed Mr. Clinton's action did not go far enough. Some groups wanted Mr. Clinton to declare the area a national monument. This would give even greater protections. They said such action would have banned fishing completely within the preserve.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Source: www.voa.gov/special/