In a memo last month, Mr. Bush directed his administration to develop a plan for creating sanctuaries in the waters around the Northern Mariana Islands, including the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest; Rose Atoll in American Samoa; and parts of a long, sprawling collection of reefs and atolls known as the Line Islands.
The waters are as isolated and pristine as any part of the globe can be these days, home to countless species of fish and plants, rare turtles and seabirds and glorious reefs. The Mariana Trench is a staggering place; it could swallow Everest. The islands are mostly coral flyspecks, but if the waters around them are protected to the fullest extent possible — to the 200-mile territorial limit — the sanctuaries would total nearly 900,000 square miles. That is bigger than all of Mexico.