United States President, Barack Obama, has focused on his home state of Hawaii as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The White House announced the monumental decision to increase the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
The expansion of the marine park has resulted in it being the largest protected area anywhere on earth! The park was created President George W. Bush in 2006. It is located around the uninhabited northwestern islands of Hawaii and covered an area of 140,000 square miles. The marine park’s size will be more than quadrupled and will now include over half a million miles (582,578 square miles) of remote Pacific waters.
This single marine monument is now bigger than all the USA national parks combined! President Obama used his executive authority under the U.S Antiquities Act. He extended the monuments boundary and ensured that all commercial fishing and mineral extraction would be prohibited within the monument. Noncommercial recreational fishing, removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, and scientific research will be allowed if the appropriate permit is acquired.
The expansion of the marine park was formally proposed by Sen. Brian Schats (D-HI). “This is one of the most important actions an American president has ever taken for the health of the oceans,” he said in a statement. “Expanding Papahānaumokuākea will replenish stocks of ‘ahi, promote biodiversity, fight climate change, and give a greater voice to Native Hawaiians in managing this resource. President Obama’s declaration is only the beginning. To create continued success, we will need to follow through with management, research, educational opportunities, and enforcement. This declaration sets us on a strong path forward for our irreplaceable environment and the generations to come.”
Endangered species, including blue whales, short-tailed albatrosses, sea turtles and the last Hawaiian monk seals seek refuge in the Papahānaumokuākea park. More than 7,000 species inhabit the deeper waters. The park is also home to some of the world’s healthiest coral reefs. It is theorized that these reefs are the most likely to survive through the expected increase in the ocean temperatures due to climate change. Black corals, the world’s oldest animals on earth have lived here for more than 4,000 years!
“We are so deeply grateful for our President Obama’s leadership on protecting our great oceans and the saved realm of our seas,” Kealoha Pisciotta, founder of Kai Palaoa, told NBC News. “It is a win for the children of Hawai’i and for all the children of the world! Ola I Ke Au a KanaLoa (life to the realms of the Sea).”