The Obama administration has announced the formation of two new National Marine Sanctuaries as part of its environmental protection initiatives. According to an administration official, the sanctuaries will be administered and controlled by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They will be located in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan and in the tidal waters of Maryland.
The new protected waters are the first to be designated as such in 15 years.
The announcement was made at the international conference on marine protection in Valparaiso, Chile, which is being attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other top U.S. officials.
The spokesman says the move was the latest in a series of steps by President Obama to protest marine environments. Last year the White House set aside 400,000 square miles of the central Pacific Ocean to be protected from deep sea mining and commercial fishing. He says the President will be announcing measures to "further protect more American waters in the coming months" .
The Lake Michigan protected area will cover 875-square miles from Port Washington to Two Rivers, and contains 39 known shipwrecks, of which 15 are listed by the National Register of Historic Places.
The Maryland tidal waters protected area comprises 14 square miles of the Mallows Bay-Potomac River neighboring Charles County. The area holds 200 vessels, some of which date back to the Revolutionary War, and provides habitat for endangered species of fish and wildlife.
Sanctuaries are authorized under the 1972 National Marine Sanctuaries Act and are designated to "protect areas of the marine environment with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archeological, educational or esthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries". These objects of "special national significance" include sunken historical vessels, coral reefs and areas of unique habitats.