The President of the United States (POTUS), Barack Obama, announced on Friday the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and banned commercial fishing to protect endangered species.
The announcement was made through a White House press release on early Friday, according to the Obama Administration, the expansion of the monument will almost quadruple the size of the already existing protected area.
Papahanaumokuakea is home to over 7,000 marine species, and some of them are not found anywhere else in the world, originally the National Monument was 139,800 square miles but after Obama’s announcement, the marine protected area will reach 582,578 square miles.
“Building on the United States’ global leadership in marine conservation, today’s designation will more than quadruple the size of the existing marine monument, protecting pristine coral reefs, deep-sea marine habitats, and important ecological resources,” read the White House press release.
World’s largest Marine Protected Area
The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was created by President George W. Bush almost a decade ago, and it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010.
The National Monument includes ten islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island when it was first created it was considered the world’s largest marine monument but in recent years it drop to the tenth place.
The name Papahanaumokuakea was given to the monument in 2007, and it comes from the Hawaiian creator goddess and her husband, Wakea. Previously the location was known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.
For local citizens, the monument has great significance since they attribute cosmological and traditional meanings to the location perceiving it as the embodiment of the Hawaiian concept of family. Many believe the monument is where life originates and where spirits go after death.
There are thousands of species living at Papahanaumokuakea, including whales, sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, and dolphins. There are over 22 different types of seabird nests and species that are in danger of extinction.
Within the monument, there are several species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including sea turtles and one of the longest-living marine species which is the black coral, with a life of over 4,500 years.
President Obama is expected to arrive at his native hometown in Hawaii on September first, for a meeting with the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congres.
This is the first time the United States is hosting the congress. It is expected that leaders discuss conservation methods for marine species and locations. On Thursday, Obama will attend the National Monument to address the expansion and discuss climate change.
“The historic action taken today by President Obama ensures that one of the planet’s most diverse ecosystems will be preserved and protected for future generations,” said a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an interview with Buzzfeed News.
According to the White House’s press release, the expansion of the marine monument not only will protect species but will also avoid the impacts of climate change that endanger the ecosystem.
“Expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to explore climate change impact,” read the press release published on Friday.
The monument also holds great historical significance, since there are drowned ships and aircraft from the Battle of Midway on World War II.
The Obama administration announced the expansion is just one action of Obama’s objective to creating world marine conservation as well as an action against illegal and unreported fishing, to create new marine sanctuaries.
The expansion of the document comes as a response to a request made by the U.S Senator Brian Schatz, who served as a voice for local Hawaiians and their desire to protect endangered species against climate changes and commercial fishing.
However, as Buzzfeed News reports, there has been opposition to Obama’s move on expanding Papahanaumokuakea, several lawmakers along with fisherman and fishing companies have opposed to the initiative.
Dating back to May, a letter was sent to the White House by lawmakers who questioned the President’s authority to expand the monument and urged him to stop the action.
Native Hawaiians against the expansion have explained that the state lives off ocean food and cultural practices that include recreation within those waters located in the new parts of the monument.
According to local fishing industry, the expansion of the monument will also have an impact on the Hawaiian economy. Since it will prevent fishermen from obtaining the most famous fish which is bigeye tuna, this will lead to higher food prices and the need to import fish.
However, President’s Obama announcement still allows recreational and cultural practices as well as scientific explorations on the new species and the endangered ones living in the sanctuary.
The Obama administration has yet to respond to the claims issued by the Hawaiian fishing industry.
Source: The White House