After designating almost 90,000 acres in Maine as a National Monument this week, today President Obama is creating the world’s largest marine preserve off the coast of Hawaii.
He’s quadrupling the size of Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument to 582,578 square miles – twice the size of Texas. President GW Bush preserved some of the area – the only national monument he designated.
Among the most biodiverse areas in the world, it harbors 7000 marine species, including our planet’s largest seabird gathering site, attracting 14 million birds each year. The world’s oldest living animal is there – 4500-year-old black coral.
The designation bans commercial fishing and deep sea mining extraction (there are rich deposits there) and allows recreational fishing and scientific research with a federal permit.
“As ocean acidification, warming, and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt, and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems,” says the White House.
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) proposed the expansion to Obama. “The best available science indicates that expanding the PMNM will strengthen an ecosystem that sustains tuna, swordfish, sharks, seabirds, sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals,” he wrote to the president.
Hawaiians strongly support the designation. More than 1 million people signed petitions or wrote letters as did 1500 scientists. Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs will be trustees for the monument, giving them a say in its management.
In 2014, Obama preserved an area of ocean three times larger than California – the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
About 15% of US oceans are now free from exploitation, and 3% of the world’s oceans. In recent years, marine reserves have been created by California, Britain, New Zealand, Chile, and Palau. Scientists say at least 30% of oceans need protection to support fishery health and to maintain biodiversity.
Obama is traveling to Hawaii next week to address the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress. Next month, the World Conservation Congress takes place in Honolulu – the world’s largest nature conservation event that takes place every four years.
In addition to protecting more land and water than any US president, his executive orders redefined National Ocean Policy, address illegal fishing and seafood fraud.
Read our article, Pacific Northwest Shows How Quickly Fish Populations Can Rebound.
Learn more about Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument: http://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/