World’s Biggest Ocean Reserve Established by Obama
Good news for aquatic life: the oceans just got a little bit safer. Okay, so most of the ocean remains vulnerable to human devastation, but on Thursday, President Barack Obama used his authority to create the most massive ocean reserve in the world. In a single day, the amount of the world’s ocean protected from commercial interests has effectively doubled.
Originally, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was something that George W. Bush established during his last weeks in office. However, Obama has taken the symbolic ocean protection and turned it into something useful by growing the area to six times its original size.
Going forward, this nearly half million square miles of the Pacific Ocean will forbid commercial fishing, as well as deep sea mining. For the coral, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, manta rays and numerous fish and bird species that frequent this area, this decision helps to ensure their survival.
“These marine protected areas are very important for the ocean,” said Catherine Novelli, an Obama employee who works on environmental and economic initiatives. “The reason why we are going to get more countries to do them is because the whole biosphere, including the fish, need to be able to regenerate. If everyone is just fishing, fishing, fishing, there is no space for that to occur.”
Though conservationists have labeled the protected ocean a success, they have also dished out some criticism toward Obama for scaling back the project due to external pressure. The limits were originally slated be 1.5 times larger than they currently are, but the tuna industry fought to maintain the right to fish in some of that region.
The administration is also looking into securing intergovernmental funds to more effectively police protected oceans. In existing preserved areas, illegal commercial fishing frequently occurs due to a lack of oversight.
In addition to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument reserve, the president will set up other protected ocean areas, like the waters around the island of Kiribati. Though this stretch of water is significantly smaller than the main reserve, it is still approximately the size of California.
“We have a responsibility to make sure our kids and their families and the future have the same ocean to serve it in the same way as we have – not to be abused, but to preserve and utilize,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry has played a large role in the Obama administration’s extensive protections of federal lands and oceans. Political analysts have labeled it the most aggressive conservation agenda by a U.S. president in more than 50 years.