President Obama to Create World’s Largest Marine Reserve Off Hawaii

mmm_wlevinPresident Obama has expanded a national monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating a safe zone for tuna, sea turtles and thousands of other species in what is now the world’s largest marine protected area.

Obama’s proclamation on August 26 quadruples in size a monument originally created by President George W. Bush in 2006. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument will contain some 1,510,000 square kilometers, more than twice the size of Texas.

Commercial fishing and any new mining is banned in the marine protected area. Recreational fishing, scientific research and Native Hawaiian cultural practices will be allowed through permits. The president plans to travel to the monument to mark the new designation and cite the need to protect public lands and waters from climate change. The president was born in Hawaii and spent much of his childhood there.

The Pew Charitable Trusts cites research showing that very large, fully protected marine reserves are necessary to rebuild fish populations and diversity of species. “By expanding the monument, President Obama has increased protections for one of the most biologically and culturally significant places on the planet” said Pew executive vice president Joshua S. Reichert.

With the announcement, Obama will have created or expanded 26 national monuments, including the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, to coincide with the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. The administration said Obama has protected more acreage through national monument designations than any other president.

The expansion will help protect more than 7,000 species and improve the resiliency of an ecosystem dealing with ocean acidification and warming.

The announcement comes as hundreds of the world’s leaders on the ocean prepare for the 2016 Our Ocean Conference September 15–16 in Washington to find ways to preserve this critical resource.