Obama Moves to Create World's Largest Marine Sanctuary

A two-month-old Pacific white-sided dolphin swims together with her mother. A two-month-old Pacific white-sided dolphin swims together with her mother. Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

President Obama will advocate for a large portion of the central Pacific Ocean to become off limits to fishing and energy exploration. His proposal as announced would create the world's largest marine sanctuary, doubling the amount of ocean that is already protected globally. This ocean conservation effort is being led by Secretary of State John Kerry and White House counselor John Podesta.

Also with this proposal, Obama will urge federal agencies "to develop a comprehensive program aimed at combating seafood fraud and the global black-market fish trade." 

The area covered by the proposal would bring the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to a total 782,000 square miles. It is currently about 87,000 square miles, surrounding seven islands in the Central Pacific that are controlled by the United States. Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, tells theWashington Post this area is "the closest thing I’ve seen to the pristine ocean." 

The administration expects to face off with commercial fishermen over the proposal. The area is used by tuna fishermen, accounting for 3 percent of their total tuna catch in the Western and Central Pacific each year. In order to combat the opposition, the Commerce and Interiors Department will study and hear from the public in regards to fishing in this area over the summer. 

Additional opposition may come from the Republicans, who believe this is a stretch of presidential power, as much of the territory is far from U.S. borders. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings told The Washington Post, "It’s another example of this imperial presidency. If there are marine sanctuaries that should be put in place, that should go through Congress.”

However, the U.S. governs more of the ocean than any other nation, so their influence is meaningful to the creation of these preservations. This particular proposal would protect underwater mountains, two dozen species of marine animals, five variations of sea turtles, as well as a number of sharks and other predatory animals. 

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