Care2 Success! Obama Just Created the World’s Largest Marine Reserve

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, first named a national monument by President George W. Bush in 2006, is a massively important marine nature reserve.

Designated a World Heritage site, the region surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands teems with more than 7,000 marine and land species — some of which are unique to the area, including endangered whales and sea turtles. As a result, the region has been deemed irreplaceable by scientists.

Environmental advocates have repeatedly called for an expansion of the monument’s protections to ensure that the area is safeguarded from commercial operations long into the future.

Clearly, President Obama agrees.

Last week Obama announced that he would expand the protected site to cover some 528,578 square miles, making Papahānaumokuākea the largest such site on Earth.

A press release from the White House notes:

The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world — black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years.

The White House emphasizes that this act continues the administration’s commitment to protecting the environment from future climate change issues.

“Additionally, as ocean acidification, warming, and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience,” the statement reads. The document argues that the expansion will “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.”

The region is also an area of great historic and social significance for the local Hawaiian communities. Papahānaumokuākea has received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s attention for its “deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture,” USA Today reports.

While Congress remains in a state of almost perpetual gridlock on any legislation of substance, especially contentious issues like climate change and environmental protection, Obama has been using his lawful executive authority to create meaningful change.

The Antiquities Act gives U.S. presidents the ability to designate national monuments from public lands in order to protect natural, cultural and scientific areas of significance, and through this legislation, Obama has been able to greatly extend the country’s environmental protections. For example, in 2014 he increased the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to the south and west of Hawaii, too.

This latest action means that commercial activities – including fishing and mineral extraction — cannot take place in the newly expanded designations, as is consistent with the current regulations surrounding the already protected monument. The expansion does, however, continue to safeguard local communities and their ability to engage in non-commercial fishing via a permit process.

This expansion will also support scientific research by continuing to grant scientists access to Hawaii’s waters.

Ultimately, Obama aims to put the management of this national monument back in the hands of the Hawaiian people. Government officials are negotiating an agreement to allow Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs broader power to manage the area with local interests in mind.

With these new conservation measures in place, hopefully the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will remain an area of extreme natural beauty and biodiversity for years to come.

Care2 Success!

Thank you to the 15,000-plus members of the Care2 community who signed a petition urging Obama to expand the protected regions around Hawaii. Each signature helped to send a clear message: Hawaii’s beautiful and diverse coast must be preserved.

Do you have a cause you care about? Take action today, and start your own petition!

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

103 comments

Ron S
Ron Sabout a year ago

Wow....That's great

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Janne O.
Janne O1 years ago

This is very good news indeed!

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Jen S.
Jen S1 years ago

Well done!

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela1 years ago

Good job!

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Tomas W.
Tomas W1 years ago

Nice one Sir...

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Rosslyn O.
Rosslyn O1 years ago

Wow! Thank you. and thank you again President Obama, from down under.

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Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

at least he has talked the talk ...he's been prevented from some major reforms but he could have done more to curb the power of the banks and ultra rich who control the world

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Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

well thats a nice thing to do before he exits

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natasha salgado
Past Member 1 years ago

You rock Obama!

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Patricia H.
Patricia Harris1 years ago

Let's all hope that the next president won't be so stupid as to undo Obama's good deed...

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