Obama set to create world’s largest marine reserve off Hawaii

  • US Pres. Barack Obama is set to create his most cherished environmental legacy
  • The US president will expand a marine sanctuary located at the northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands
  • The area is considered as the ‘largest protected marine area’ in the world

For his environmental legacy, President Barack Obama is set to expand a marine sanctuary located at the northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands.

The expansion, according to the White House officials, will pave the way to creating the world’s largest protected marine area, an article written by Julie Hitschfeld Davis on The New York Times disclosed.

For his initial move, Obama will travel to Midway Atoll, a remote spit of land within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, to recognize the designation and highlight the importance of protecting pristine lands and waters as the dangers of climate change further intensifies.

According to the White House officials, the environmental project sought to expand by more than quadruple the size of the refuge.

With its significance, the project has earned acclamation from various sectors especially the environmental groups.

“This act — to build resilience in our oceans, and sustain the diversity and productivity of sea life — could usher in a new century of conservation for our most special, and fragile, ocean areas,” Sarah Chasis, director of the oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, was quoted saying.

An environmental advocate, Obama made use of the 100-year-old Antiquities Act and was able to protect hundreds of millions of acres in places of ecological, historical or cultural significance — more than any other American president. The act was signed by former US Pres. Theodore Roosevelt.

In 2014, Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, south and west of Hawaii.

The Papahanaumokuakea monument, which was created by former Pres. George W. Bush in 2006, surrounds the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is home to an estimated 7,000 marine and terrestrial species.

Marine and terrestrial species found in the area include millions of tropical sea birds, endangered whales and sea turtles, and black coral, considered the longest-living marine species.

Aside from its environmental importance, the area also carries substantial cultural significance as a sacred place to native Hawaiians, and historical importance as the site of the Battle of Midway, a decisive Allied victory that was a turning point in World War II.

Meanwhile, the White House said that commercial fishing and mineral extraction such as deep sea mining will be prohibited within the expanded area but recreational fishing and subsistence fishing by native Hawaiians will be allowed by permit, along with scientific research.