Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii, a champion for healthy oceans, sent a proposal to the White House asking President Obama to exercise his authority under the Antiquities Act to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM). This proposal would create the world’s largest marine protected area.
The current monument, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), was created ten years ago by President George W. Bush. It contains some of the planet’s most extensive coral reefs and supports a myriad of marine species including tuna, swordfish, sharks, seabirds, sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals.
Senator Schatz’s proposal would quadruple the size of the current monument, expanding it from 139,800 to 582,578 square miles, to encompass the larger ecosystem, including underwater mountains and the deep ocean floor.
Studies show that marine protected areas can act as safe havens and sustain a richer diversity of life, larger, more prolific fish, and increase the productivity of sea life. Protected areas also build resilience into our oceans, helping them withstand the impacts of a changing climate. Currently, only 1.6 percent of the ocean is strongly, or fully, protected.
This proposal is a bold and critical move from a Senator who understands these threats, and the necessary solutions. To date, we still do not have a marine monument off the continental United States. But if we follow the example of Hawaii, hopefully we can extend this stewardship ethic to other special marine places in U.S waters.