On Monday, President Bush took the first step toward protecting three unique marine areas in the Pacific Ocean that are under U.S. jurisdiction, including waters around the Mariana Islands, Rose Atoll in American Samoa, and other coral reefs and atolls in the central Pacific. If all of the proposed areas are eventually protected, it would add 891,000 square miles of marine sanctuaries and/or national monuments to U.S. waters. Bush has not yet indicated what type of protection the areas will receive, if any, but he directed his cabinet on Monday to look closely at the three areas and explore the implications of such designations. Even if the areas eventually receive special status, commercial fishing, oil and gas drilling, or deep-sea mining could still occur in the protected areas unless they are specifically prohibited by Bush; environmental and conservation groups are lobbying hard for such prohibitions. One of the areas under consideration for protection is the deepest spot in the world’s oceans, the Mariana Trench, which reaches a depth of some 36,000 feet.