Wildlife benefit from refuge that is now ten times its original size!
Two weeks ago President Obama made the announcement that he was dramatically expanding the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean by over 490,000 square miles – making it ten times its current size! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers the monument which is anchored around seven island national wildlife refuges. The seven atolls and islands included within the monument are farther from human population centers than any other U.S. area.
This is (literally) huge news for migrating birds and waterfowl, fish, and marine mammals that depend on the unique and diverse ecosystems around these refuge islands. And what is most exciting is that the president has now created the largest marine reserve in the world that is off-limits to commercial fishing. Commercial fishing and other resource extraction in sensitive marine areas present some of the biggest threats to at-risk species, and are the most significant contributors to worldwide declining fish populations.
The expanded Pacific Remote Islands National Monument will provide a necessary safe haven for protected wildlife, along with many other species that will benefit from these conservation efforts. Millions of seabirds from 19 different species depend on the refuge areas and play a critical role in the food chain in the shore ecosystems. In addition to the value to seabirds, the monument also expands the range in which manta rays can safely forage, supports at least 22 species of marine mammals and protects five species of sea turtles.
To expand the monument, President Obama used the authority granted to him by the Antiquities Act – and follows the footsteps of nearly every president since Theodore Roosevelt, who first passed and successfully enacted the law in 1906. The Antiquities Act grants presidents the ability to proclaim “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest” as national monuments. National monuments recognize and protect cultural and ecological wonders all over the United States and outlying territories and include such sites as mountains, deserts, bridges and statues from New York to Alaska, Florida to Hawaii and nearly everywhere in between. During his tenure, President Obama has designated 13 national monuments.
This most recent designation is of utmost importance to the great biodiversity of the Pacific region because while the area is one where so many unique and threatened marine species thrive, it is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. President Obama clearly recognizes the even greater urgency to conserve the region’s biodiversity in the face of climate change, and has taken a major step toward that conservation by expanding the scope and reach of this national monument.