Jean-Michel Cousteau Statement on Bush Decision To Create New Marine National Monuments In Pacific Ocean

Washington, D.C. - In a bold move that will have a lasting effect on marine life, President George W. Bush has assured his legacy in terms of preserving large portions of the ocean for future generations. Jean-Michel Cousteau was among the invited guests at a White House ceremony where the President announced his declaration of new Marine National Monuments.

This announcement follows Bush’s 2006 designation of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, which preserved 138,000 square miles of ocean.

Jean-Michel Cousteau has witnessed a global devastation to marine life, in spite of decades of research and policy changes. “President Bush’s designation of Marine National Monuments is an insurance policy that ocean life can be preserved. By making these areas off limits to commercial fishing and development, we are giving the ocean the chance to restore itself and to provide its natural abundance, which will spillover from these protected areas.”

“Such protected areas as the President has now created will see an increase in biodiversity, abundance and size of species in the reserves. With healthy populations inside such reserves successful reproduction provide larvae and juveniles to populate adjacent reefs. And large fish, particularly those that are territorial, move out of the protected areas. There is now evidence that fishing in regions near such marine protected areas has improved.

“The health of most ocean ecosystems can be judged by the presence of large predators, like sharks and groupers. These apex predators control other populations with a cascade of effects that ripple through entire ecosystems, maintaining ecological balance and community integrity. Yet these are the preferred catch of fishers - big fish are better. The numbers of sharks especially are severely depleted worldwide and large fish populations are down 90 percent in some cases.

“And to make the situation worse, when some species like groupers and snappers aggregate to spawn en masse, fishers descend upon these aggregations for an easy catch. Killing large adults at the time they are reproducing is a sure way to eliminate future harvest. In many of these species the larger individuals produce far more spawn than their smaller counterparts. So if we want to protect and restore reefs we MUST protect larger individuals.

“This is a wise move to halt fishing in these areas and to protect these last remaining refuges of biodiversity and abundance. Thanks to ocean currents and larval dispersal, reefs are interconnected such that these healthy areas can be critical in the natural restoration of less healthy reefs.
“So if we want to help fishers stay in business and have a healthy ocean, we must create refuges, where fishing is prohibited, to ensure there will continue to be a source of offspring to replace what is harvested.

“I applaud this lasting decision and the hard work of President Bush, his Administration, and the NGOs and dedicated scientists who have made this possible for us all.”

Jean-Michel Cousteau is founder of Ocean Futures Society, whose mission is to explore our global ocean, inspire and educate people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean’s vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet. Ocean Futures Society is based in Santa Barbara, CA., USA. For more information about the endeavors of Ocean Futures Society and Jean-Michel Cousteau, visit their website at .

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