Bush to expand protections in Pacific

President Bush wants to extend environmental protections to more of the Pacific Ocean.

Bush said he has asked the secretaries of the Interior, Commerce and Defense to identify additional areas that could be eligible for conservation.

Acknowledging that his administration is coming to an end, Bush said he is “sprinting to the finish.”

“I mean, four months, you can actually get a lot done,” he said.

He also announced that the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, off the California coast, will be expanded by 585 square nautical miles to include the Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain.

Bush’s comments came in a speech at the newly completed Sant Ocean Hall, scheduled to open to the public Saturday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Last month Bush proposed protecting three remote island chains, launching a marine conservation effort that could be one of the largest in history.

He is considering conserving parts of the Northern Mariana islands in the western Pacific, as well as eight islands and coral reef atolls and their surrounding waters in the central Pacific that are part of the Line Islands and American Samoa.

In his comments Friday, Bush noted a life-size model of a right whale in the museum and said his administration has sought to help protect these endangered whales.

Indeed, the government has recommended a speed limit for commercial ships along the Atlantic coast, where collisions with the right whale threaten its existence.

Only about 300 or 400 of the whales are left in the wild, and they migrate annually between their southeastern Atlantic breeding grounds to feeding areas off the Massachusetts coast, intersecting busy shipping lanes.