Obama to Create Largest Protected Marine Area in Hawaii


President Obama will use his powers to designate national monuments on Friday to create the world’s largest protected marine area off the coast of Hawaii, the White House said.

Obama will more than quadruple the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, to 582.578 square miles — more than 50 times larger than the land area of the Hawaiian Islands themselves.

The White House also announced that Obama would travel to the region next week, visiting the landmark Midway Atoll at the western edge of the area to address the threat of climate change and the importance of protecting public lands and waters. He’ll also visit his native Hawaii to take part in a conference of Pacific Island leaders and a world conservation conference in Honolulu. From there, he’s scheduled to attend a summit of the Group of 20 world leaders in China.

Friday’s action will permanently protect coral reefs and underwater habitats home to more than 7,000 species, including rare whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act. Commercial fishing and drilling are prohibited, and the designation also has implications for navigation, with voluntary restrictions on travel through certain areas and a requirement that ships notify the U.S. Coast Guard when they enter or exit the area.

The monument was first designated by President George W. Bush in 2006 as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, and later renamed in honor of Papahanaumoku and Wakea, the husband-and-wife Hawaiian gods of earth and sky. Bush’s proclamation first designated 139,800 square miles. Obama’s action expands the area all the way to the western edge of U.S. territorial waters.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Gregory Korte