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Hawaiian islands enter critical year for protection

The remote 1,400-mile long string of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are blanketed with the 14 million seabirds that nest there. Beneath the surface of the surrounding waters, fish crowd into pristine coral reefs.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 12:40 IST

The remote 1,400-mile long string of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are blanketed with the 14 million seabirds that nest there. Beneath the surface of the surrounding waters, fish crowd into pristine coral reefs.

The islands are home to about 7,000 species of birds, fish and marine mammals, a quarter of which are unique to Hawaii. While the islands have been protected for nearly a century as a refuge, the surrounding reefs are entering a critical year for their protection in 2006.

“This refuge is America’s Galapagos,” said Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and a pivotal player in the fate of the reefs.

Over the next year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be developing rules for managing the waters of the island chain under a proposed sanctuary status, which could prohibit or even expand fishing and activities such as coral and lobster harvesting.

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 12:40 IST