A recent report by the AP, rehashed here at msnbc reports of the move by Bush and generally describes it as a positive one.
Indeed, Elliott Norse, of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute concurs, saying in a statement released ahead of the announcement;
"This an unprecedented win for endangered Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, black-footed albatrosses, tiger sharks, the incredible reef corals in these waters, the people of Hawaii and all Americans, now and in generations to come,"
To me, it looks like they feel that whatever the American public doesn't know, won't hurt them.
Although this legislation appears to place the area under strict government protection, and indeed it does, in reality it changes nothing. How do I know this? Because I live on Midway Islands for a couple of years while stationed there in the early 1980's.
A very limited amount of commercial fishing is already a policy that has been in place for decades , and most of that is much father South East than where Midway, Eastern or Tern Island lay. In fact, much of the French Fregit Shoal's remain mostly undisturbed because the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard allow very limited commercial fishing in the area. This legislation only allows a fishing net barrier of 3 miles, when it has long been argued that a 60 miles range would be the only methode that would truly help those species in trouble at the present. Basically it keeps things as they are and transfers the funding portion from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, (a big expense), to various governmental agencies and limits the military role altogether.
Midway is the jewel of the Pacific. On the surface, Midway appears to be rather blan, but take a look in and under the water and suddenly it goes from an average looking low lying island, to a magical forrest under the waves the likes you have never seen in your lifetime, because there is nothing on the planet to compare it to.
Pick the fish you want to eat, and within 5-10 minutes you'll have it on your hook. Choose an afternoon to discover a new species of coral, and you'll have at least a 50 - 50 chance of doing just that. Imagine, "Warden Coral", that would be cool, don't ya think?
I've spent more than 1000 hours logged under the water of these islands and have researched them until this very day. There truly is nothing like them.
So, why would I be complaining about something that appears to have the capacity to save the entire area? Because it really does not change anything accept possibly open the area up to exploration from private groups funded by the U.S. (Republican) government.
What I see is that Bush publically appears to have given something for nothing politically. I've never known the man to be this way, ever! So why would he do this?
Possibly, it's a public peace offering so he can sway the public to open Alaska to oil development and in the end is a very sad ploy, I'll bet cha! Don't think the association is that far stretched, it isn't. The Act provides for a very lose interpretation in and as far as the "level" of protection that could be offered. If that interprtation is a lose one, (to be seen) it set's a new legal precedent that can be uniformally applied. The initial impact is to attempt to make Bush appear to be sensitive to environmental issues and ride the current wave of new poll number increases. However, in the long haul there exist a threat that this could provide much more for Republican's that meets the eye. As occams points out below:
At issue is whether or not the sanctuary will be one that is fully protected from all extractive activities, such as commercial fishing, seabed mining, coral removal, and the like. The National Marine Sanctuaries System Act permits you to establish marine sanctuaries with varying degrees of protection, including full protection. [emphasis added]It all depends on the interpretation. Considering Bushs' track record along with Gonzales' skills for "unique" legal interpretations, I simply don't trust this.