President Clinton has designated a vast marine protected area around the coral-laden Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) -- an MPA that now ranks as the largest protected area (either terrestrial or marine) in the US and the second largest MPA in the world. Clinton's designation of the MPA in early December followed a 90-day public consultation process -- ordered by the president last May (MPA News 1:9) -- to develop recommendations for increasing protection of the NWHI's coral ecosystems. The NWHI contain nearly 70% of US coral reefs.
The newly created Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve spans 340,000 sq. km (84 million acres). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, widely considered to be the world's largest MPA, is only slightly larger at 350,000 sq. km.
The state of Hawaii will retain its jurisdiction out to three nautical miles from the shore of most of the NWHI islands. The new reserve will extend from the seaward boundary of Hawaii state waters to 50 nautical miles from the geographic center of the NWHI chain's islands. The reserve will be overseen by the National Marine Sanctuary Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency within the Department of Commerce.