US President Obama has just created the largest marine reserve in the world when he expanded a current reserve in his native Hawaii to encompass more that 3/4 million square kilometeres.
The president more than quadrupled the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to 788,578 square kilometers of land and sea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The area is one of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world and expanding the Monument will more fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.
The area will be completely off limits to commercial fishing and the expanded monument will include over 130 newly protected sea mounts, which are hotspots of biodiversity that harbor uncounted numbers of new and unique marine species. The expansion will better protect the habitat of animals with large migration and foraging ranges that stretch throughout the area, including sea turtles, marine mammals, and manta rays. The Monument is also home to millions of seabirds that forage over hundreds of miles and bring food back to their rookeries on the islands and atolls. These birds serve as a conveyor belt of energy bringing nutrients caught at sea back into the near shore environment where they help sustain the ecosystems.