Oahu recently played host to a wealth of world leaders, including President Obama, for the annual IUCN World Conservation Congress. Held every four years, a bevvy of political premieres and conservationists gathered to discuss and plan ways to repair and protect the planet at this esteemed event. Although there were a myriad of vital issues discussed, ranging from global warming to protecting native plants, we were especially pleased to hear about the extension of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Under President Obama’s directive, the monument—which extends nearly 140,000 square miles from the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and into the depths of the pacific—has nearly quadrupled in size.
“Teddy Roosevelt gets credit for starting the National Park Service,” Mr. Obama said. “But when you include a big chunk of the Pacific Ocean, you now have actually done more acreage.”
The monument was originally formed under President George W. Bush more than a decade ago and was seen by conservationists and Native Hawaiians as an important step forward to protect Mother Nature and safeguard a deeply spiritual area for Native Hawaiians. This newly announced extension solidifies the future of this diverse and relatively untouched habitat.
“This is a hallowed site and it deserves to be treated that way from now on,” President Obama said, noting that Native Hawaiian cultures view this area as sacred.
The reserve is also home to a wealth of species that help scientists understand the history of the seas—including a species of black coral which has been found to live more than 4,500 years—and uncover new species of marine life. Additionally, the marine monument is home to an estimated 14 million seabirds and seven thousand known marine species. It’s thought that nearly a quarter of the creatures living in the monument can be found no where else on Earth.
Under law, fishing and marine mining are now banned in this area, a move that will preserve a large swath of the Pacific’s most treasured and untouched habitats.
“I’m really fired up on this news,” says Kahi Pacarro, founder of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a local nonprofit group committed to keeping Hawaii’s beaches and waterways clean. “This shows that we’re finally going in the right direction and are protecting such a pristine part of our oceans. There’s still a lot of work to do, but this is a huge step forward.”