Obama Steps Up for Oceans

I am very excited that President Barack Obama is rewriting ocean history today by designating the world’s largest strongly protected area in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Using his authority as President under the Antiquities Act he is proposing to dramatically expand Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 87,000 square miles to 782,000 square miles. To protect the whales, seabirds, sea turtles, fishes and corals in these areas, commercial fishing and mineral extraction will be prohibited.

The islands, reefs and atolls include Wake, Johnston, Howland, Baker, Kingman, Palmyra and Jarvis. A series of bold actions by both Republican and Democratic presidents was key to its success. President Theodore Roosevelt protected the islands during his term. Then President George W. Bush (at our recommendation), in one of his last acts in office greatly extended protection to the marine ecosystems surrounding the island, designating them as a Marine National Monument. Our report providing scientific basis for the expansion outlines the significant conservation value of this region.

When President Obama finalizes this history-making protection of our tropical Pacific waters, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will be the largest protected area in the world.  At a time when humankind is in conflict, we applaud the vision of Presidents Obama, Bush and Roosevelt for their work in protecting the planet that sustains us all.

To support the creation of more marine reserves, Marine Conservation Institute recently issued a marine scientists’ letter calling on President Obama to strongly protect 20% of each ocean biogeographic region in the USA. So far over 350 scientists from around the globe have added their names to this letter.

Our organization has been advocating for marine reserves for nearly 20 years. Extensive scientific literature shows compelling evidence that strongly protected marine reserves are powerful ways of conserving biodiversity. No-take reserves provide resilience against the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification. In addition, no-take reserves can create jobs and bring in new economic revenue through ecotourism and enhancement of local fisheries through spillover beyond reserve boundaries.

To recover the diversity and abundance of marine life, Marine Conservation Institute in October 2103 announced the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), a strategic, science-based way to safeguard marine ecosystems on a global scale.  GLORES is designed to catalyze strong protection for at least 20% of the ecosystems in each marine biogeographic region by 2030, enough to avert mass extinction of marine life.  Global Ocean Refuges will serve as safe havens for the world’s diversity of marine life and advance the system-change in ocean protection that humankind needs.

President Obama is taking a big step forward today by proposing expanded protection for the Pacific Remote Islands.

President Obama, we salute you!