President Obama Created Two of the Largest Protected Areas in History
President Obama secured his legacy as an ocean steward through the expansion of two Pacific marine monuments. With these actions, President Obama committed over 1,000,000 square miles of ocean to strongly protected marine reserves.
In 2014, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 83,000 square miles to 490,343 square miles, making it one of the largest strongly protected areas on the planet. 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 is prohibited in the national monument. The monument as a whole encompasses the seven islands and reefs of Wake, Johnston, Baker, Howland, Kingman, Jarvis and Palmyra, as well as the ocean around them.
Two years later in 2016, he expanded Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, extending the prohibition of commercial extraction out to the extent of the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Timeline of Our Involvement with the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument
How We Helped Make the Pacific Remote Islands Monument a Reality
In 2009, following several years of research and advocacy work by Marine Conservation Institute, President George W. Bush designated the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act. Together with the Marinas Trench National Marine Monument, these three monuments encompassed 195,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Since 2009, Marine Conservation Institute has continued its efforts to ensure protection for this monument by improving our scientific understanding of the ecology of this region and providing input to managers on issues of enforcement and monitoring.
Marine Conservation Institute worked with colleagues at the National Geographic Society to advocate for the expansion of this marine protected area. On September 25, 2014, President Obama officially expanded the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, an area that includes seven remote island territories and surrounding waters in the Central Pacific: Wake Island, Johnston Island, Palmyra Island, Kingman Reef, Baker Island, Howland Island, and Jarvis Island. The new boundaries now include the entire US exclusive economic zone area around Wake, Johnston, and Jarvis Islands.
The extended protections encompass some of the most pristine coral reef and open ocean ecosystems in the world and protect important foraging areas for tropical seabirds and recovery zones for tunas and other fishes that are heavily exploited across the Pacific. These islands contain nearly four times as many shallow water reef-building coral species as the entire Florida Keys, hundreds of fish species and dozens of species of seabirds. Migrating fishes, turtles, birds and marine mammals frequent the islands, including endangered and threatened leatherback, green and hawksbill sea turtles, whales, and large migratory fish. Several of these islands are also important to Polynesian, Micronesian, and US military and aviation history.
President Obama's vast expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument created one of the largest strongly protected areas on the planet and brought us one step closer to securing protection for 30% of our oceans.