WASHINGTON — President Clinton Monday announced the creation of a vast "Yellowstone of the sea" — a reserve protecting an expanse of Hawaii's pristine coral reefs larger than the states of Florida and Georgia.

"The world's reefs are in peril. Pollution, damage from dynamite fishing, coral poachers, unwise coastal development, and global warming already have killed over 25 percent of the world's reefs," Clinton said in a speech at the National Geographic Society.

He said the protections, to be designated in an executive order, would set a "new global standard" for protection of reefs and marine wildlife.

The order would establish the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve covering 131,000 square miles along a 1,200 mile-long island chain northwest of the main Hawaiian islands. The reserve would encompass about 70 percent of U.S. coral reefs.

The area is the only home to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. It provides habitat to other protected species including sea turtles and birds, and to migratory species such as humpback whales.

"This area is a special place where the sea is a living rainbow," Clinton said. Evoking the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, which is known for its natural wonders, Clinton called the reef refuge a "new, vast, Yellowstone of the sea."

But the reefs have been damaged by pollution, changing ocean conditions and thousands of tons of debris drifting from the northern Pacific ocean.

The order bans oil, gas and mineral production and exploration within the reserve. It would cap commercial and recreational fishing at current levels, and prevent the removal of coral.

It also bars dumping in the area but will allow native Hawaiian subsistence fishing and cultural uses to continue.

In addition, the order designates 15 "reserve preservation areas" — encompassing about 5 percent of the reserve — where most commercial and recreational fishing, anchoring and collecting or touching coral would be banned outright. In eight of the areas, existing bottomfishing will be allowed.

During his presidency, Clinton has protected large swaths of land, often using executive orders where Congress has been unable to act on environmental issues.

White House officials said additional conservation measures could be announced in the remaining weeks of Clinton's term, which expires in January. They are also hoping to complete a proposed regulation that would protect 40 million roadless acres in national forests.

The president told his audience that there was "much much more to be done in the years ahead."

"I hope that no matter who becomes president, no matter what the partisan divide of Congress, that those of you who are here in this room will continue this work for the rest of your lives," he said.