Obama Expands Pacific Ocean Preserve 6X

Late last month, President Barack Obama approved an expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. (Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) The expansion sees the preserve grow to cover 490,000 square miles, six times its current size.

Keep On Barackin’ In the Free World

Yes, I have been waiting to use that header for a long time. Obama’s expansion of the marine preserve protects the area against drilling and most fishing operations. At more than five times the size of Oregon, the PRIMNM is the world’s largest marine preserve, and countless fish, sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals will be protected. Over 130 underwater mountains, where rare and previously-undiscovered species are often found, are also secured.

Obama’s work to expand the preserve began in June of this year, when he asked for input from scientists, fishermen, and lawmakers to help determine the final boundaries. Commercial fishing, deep-sea mining, and other underwater resource extraction processes are all banned in the area. Though commercial fishing, drilling, and the like are not currently extensive in the area, a move to preserve the region prior to an influx of these activities is undoubtedly a smart move.

Recreational fishing is still allowed, as an attempt to encourage appropriate public use of federal areas.

The Presidential Seal of Approval

The Presidential Seal of Approval

Part of A Bigger Plan

Obama’s expansion is just one part of his work to help protect the environment. In a speech to the United Nations assembly earlier in September, Obama declared new commitments by the US to help other countries combat climate change.

“We hope the steps taken by the US government will accelerate similar actions by a growing list of coastal nations to protect more of the world’s great ocean treasures,” said Matt Rand, head of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ ocean program.

Fingers Crossed for Further Expansion

Still, some are saying the president should have done more. Maritime law gives country’s control of up to 200 nautical miles from their shores. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was originally established by President George W. Bush, and extended roughly 50 miles out from the shores of numerous US-administered islands in the Pacific Ocean that are thousands of miles from the US mainland.

The islands are divided into five regions, and all located between Hawaii and American Samoa. Obama’s extension preserves the full 200 miles allowed, but only in three of the five regions. If the president were to fully extending the preserve’s reach from all five regions, the PRIMNM would cover nearly 800,000 square miles. Here’s hoping there are more expansions to come.