Friday, August 26, 2016

Obama creates world's largest protected marine area off Hawaii

President Barack Obama will expand the country's largest contiguous fully protected conservation area to create the world's largest marine protected area in Hawaii, covering 582,578 square miles of land and sea, the White House said.

The designation Friday will more than quadruple Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to protect coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats and ecological resources in the waters off the northwest Hawaiian Islands. Papahanaumokuakea was established more than a decade ago under President George W. Bush.

"The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world -- black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years," the White House said.

 "Additionally, as ocean acidification, warming and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, 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 monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems."

The designation means all commercial activities, including commercial fishing and mineral extraction are prohibited within the boundaries of the monument. Recreational fishing, scientific research, and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices will be allowed in the expansion area by permit...

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