President Barack Obama Makes Ocean Conservation History by Creating the Largest Protected Area on Earth

Scientists at Marine Conservation Institute Worked for Years to Make This Happen

President Obama will sign a proclamation tomorrow to designate the largest marine reserve in the world.  His proclamation expands the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 83,000 square miles to 490,000 square miles.  To protect the whales, seabirds, sea turtles, fishes and corals in this region of the central and western Pacific Ocean, commercial fishing and mineral extraction will now be prohibited in this national monument.

The expanded monument is now the largest protected area on the planet (land or sea). It encompasses the seven islands and reefs of Wake, Johnston, Baker, Howland, Kingman, Jarvis and Palmyra, as well as the ocean around them.

Marine Conservation Institute has been working behind-the-scenes to ensure protection in these waters since 2008.  The organization assembled the scientific information that helped President George W. Bush declare Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in 2009. Earlier this year, working with colleagues at National Geographic Society, Marine Conservation Institute co-authored the scientific report that showed the Obama Administration the exceptional conservation value of the waters surrounding the original Monument boundaries. Moreover, Marine Conservation Institute scientists were joined by nearly 600 scientists from around the world who called on President Obama to protect more U.S. waters as no-take marine reserves, the strongest kind of protected area in the sea.

“In one masterful stroke, President Obama has created a huge, strongly-protected area of ocean, building on the monumental work of President Bush, who first designated it in 2009,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute. “When the story of marine conservation is written, President Obama’s efforts to expand Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument and create the largest strongly-protected area on the planet will surely be one of the greatest achievements.”

The expanded marine monument protects a diversity of habitats and marine life including:

  • 130 seamounts: undersea mountains which can provide essential rest-stops for tunas and sea turtles migrating across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean.
  • Several million seabirds representing 19 species, many of which find the fish and squid they eat in the now-expanded marine monument waters.
  • Habitat for whales and dolphins, including the newly discovered Palmyra beaked whale.
  • Nearly-pristine coral reef ecosystems.

“Fifty years after the Wilderness Act, President Obama has now done more than anybody to give strong, permanent protection to our oceans,” said Dr. Morgan. “People and governments around the world are applauding his actions and ready to follow his leadership in protecting our oceans.”

Less than 2% of the world’s oceans are strongly protected, far less than the 20% recommended as a minimum by marine scientists.  To encourage world leaders to take up the challenge, in October 2013, Marine Conservation Institute initiated the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced glôr-ees), 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.

About Marine Conservation Institute 
Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental-policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s goal is to help the world create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure future diversity and abundance of marine life. Founded in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington DC. For more information, please go to:

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For more information, media and bloggers only, please contact:

Dr.  Elliott Norse, Chief Scientist, Marine Conservation Institute
office: 425-968-0449

Dr. Lance Morgan, President, Marine Conservation Institute
mobile: 707-217-8242

Gaby Adam, By the Sea Communications
mobile: 206-931-5942