A marine monument around the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas' northern islands could help governments worldwide better manage coral reefs as well as yield major scientific discoveries.
This has been claimed by the director of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, who says the area designated for the monument is a hotbed of geologicial activity found nowhere else on earth.
But there is widespread opposition in the Northern Marianas to the federal government's plan.
Mr Connaughton, who is presently in the CNMI, says the waters around the islands of Maug, Uracus and Asuncion are home to a diverse array of aquatic species, and could be the staging ground for a new era of undersea exploration.
He says the reefs don't look like coral reef ecosystems anywhere else, and as scientists learn more about them, the research could give governments the data they need to make smarter management decisions.