A Motion for the Ocean
President Obama just announced the first two new marine sanctuaries in 15 years.
As the crowd watched from the Our Ocean conference in Valparaiso, Chile, this morning, President Obama announced over video what could become the first new marine sanctuaries in U.S. waters since 2000: one in the tidal waters of Maryland and another in Lake Michigan.
The sanctuary in Lake Michigan would span 875 square miles off the Wisconsin coast, from Port Washington to Two Rivers. The area contains at least 39 shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Maryland, Mallows Bay is a 14-square-mile section of the Potomac River near Charles County. Mostly undeveloped, it provides important habitat for osprey, nesting bald eagles, migratory waterfowl, and other rare, threatened, and endangered species. Plus—more shipwrecks! Nearly 200 vessels from the Revolutionary War onward went down in this stretch of sea, including the largest ghost fleet of World War I steamships.
To safeguard seas farther away from our shores, the Obama administration also unveiled new initiatives today to combat illegal fishing, which is taking place in waters across the globe. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently developing new tools to detect illegal fishing boats, while the global initiative Sea Scout will encourage world leaders to collaborate on catching and prosecuting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
The two new designations were possible because NOAA opened up the nomination process for the public last year for the first time in two decades. The agency has received seven submissions so far, but only Mallows Bay and Lake Michigan have passed muster. A public comment period will last until mid-January, and, if approved, they’ll join the country’s 14 other marine protected areas.
This isn’t the first time protections for the country’s marine areas have improved on President Obama’s watch. In December, he made Alaska’s Bristol Bay off-limits to oil and gas development, and last year, he expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to protect 400,000 square miles from commercial fishing and deep-sea mining, making it the largest marine reserve in the world. And with another year to go yet in his presidency, Obama promised to do even more from sea to shining sea all over this Blue Planet.
This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.
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