In the last five years, I can count on one hand the number of times environmental groups have come together to praise a new policy by President Bush — and that one hand was probably making a fist. So for the ocean conservation community to be celebrating the president’s announcement today, you know this is a VERY big deal.

George W. Bush is designating the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve — 84 million acres to be exact. A biologically rich string of islands known as the Northwestern Hawaii Islands (NWHI) will now enjoy complete federal protection from commercial fishing activities as a new National Monument. This is fantastic news for the seals, turtles, albatrosses, sharks, corals, and other marine life that call these waters home, and a strange, welcome, happy, confusing moment for conservationists everywhere. Congratulations to our colleagues who worked so hard to make this happen, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, The Ocean Conservancy, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Environmental Defense, and especially all the groups in Hawaii. Read all about it.