By quadrupling the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to encompass more than half a million square miles US President Barack Obama on Friday created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet, protecting a wide swath of ocean near Hawaii
President George W. Bush established the monument a decade ago, but Obama has now used his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect more than 548 million acres of federal land and water, more than double the set-asides of any of his predecessors.
Living within the protected area are more than 7,000 marine species, including 24 species of whales and dolphins and five protected species of sea turtles, as well as foraging areas for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and remote nesting atolls for numerous species of seabirds.
Recent research expeditions have unearthed extraordinary features beyond the existing monument boundaries, such as the world’s oldest living animal — a black coral estimated to be 4,500 years old — and six massive seamounts, one of which is nearly 14,000 feet high and teeming with life, the Washington Post reports.
It is in the public interest to preserve the marine environment.
- Barack Obama
All commercial extraction activities, including fishing and future deep-sea mining, will be prohibited in the expanded monument area. However, recreational fishing, removal of resources for traditional Hawaiian cultural purposes and scientific research will be allowed with a federal permit.