15 Jun 2006

US sets up huge reserve between Hawaii and Midway

7:13 pm on 15 June 2006

The American President George W Bush is to establish what is being billed as the largest protected ocean area in the world - a biologically rich chain of coral reefs and islands from north of Hawaii to Midway Atoll.

The area, known now as North-Western Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, is more than 2,200 kilometres long and encompasses 358,400 square kilometres.

The new reserve has tropical fish, sea turtles, monk seals and more than 7,000 other marine species.

White House officials say all commercial fishing will be phased out in the region over the next five years.

The move has been applauded by marine biologists and environmental groups.

The president of Environmental Defence says creating the world's largest marine protested area is as important as the establishment of Yellowstone National Park.