14 million seabirds nest the remote 1,400-mile (2,253-kilometer) long string of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Even the shallow depth of the surrounding water boasts of its own colorful charm. Fish crowd into pristine coral reefs beneath the surface of the surrounding waters.
The islands are home to about 7,000 species of birds, fish and marine mammals, a quarter of which are unique to Hawaii. The panoramic view of the island is worth seeing. For nearly a century, the islands have been protected as a refuge. And now, the surrounding reefs are entering a critical year for their protection in 2006.
Under a proposed sanctuary status, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be developing rules for managing the waters of the island chain over the next year. It could prohibit or even expand fishing and activities such as coral and lobster harvesting.