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Obama Forms the World’s Largest Marine Sanctuary

On August 26 President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) off the northwest coast of Hawaii to create the world’s largest marine protected area. In what might be the last part of the most remarkable conservation record of any president, this quadrupling of the area first established by President George Bush in 2006 now covers 582,578 sq. miles of ocean and atolls.

Although the expanded PMNM is now the world’s largest ocean sanctuary, at twice the size of Texas, it is worth noting that it provides protection for less than half of one percent of the Earth’s oceans. Fortunately, the expansion of the PMNM is among a surge of new or expanded marine sanctuaries recently created around the world.

As the National Geographic remarked: “Papahānaumokuākea is a sanctuary for endangered species, including blue whales, short-tailed albatrosses, sea turtles, and the last Hawaiian monk seals. It contains some of the world’s northernmost and healthiest coral reefs, considered among the most likely to survive in an ocean warmed by climate change. The seamounts and sunken islands of its deeper waters are inhabited by more than 7,000 species, including the oldest animals on Earth—black corals that have lived for more than 4,000 years.

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