Obama Creates the Largest Protected Zone on Earth

Welcome to Papahanaumokuakea, off Hawaii
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2016 7:32 AM CDT
Obama Puts Record-Size Area Off Hawaii Under Protection
This 2015 photo provided by NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research/Hohonu Moana shows a massive sponge photographed at a depth of about 7,000 feet in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.   (NOAA Office of Exploration and Research/Hohonu Moana 2015 via AP)

A decade ago, President Bush created the biggest marine preserve in the world off the coast of Hawaii. On Friday, President Obama is quadrupling its size to cover 583,000 square miles and thus turning it into what the Washington Post reports will be the largest protected zone on Earth. It's called the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and non-natives will need this to pronounce it: "Papa-ha-now-mow-koo-ah-kay-ah." The designation covers atolls and islands and surrounding waters, and it will make commercial fishing off-limits. As National Geographic notes, Papahanaumokuakea is home to more than 7,000 species, including 4,000-year-old coral considered the world's oldest animal. A quarter of its creatures are believed to exist nowhere else.

"We would like the other nations to follow suit," Sol Kaho'ohalahala, a seventh-generation Hawaiian who is part of a working group on island protection, tells Reuters. "We are part of this place, we're not the beginning of this place." The pro-expansion movement fended off vigorous opposition from the fishing industry to prevail. Discovery notes one unusual aspect of the designation: Obama will allow his native state to be a co-trustee of the monument, giving it more say over its protection. Obama, using his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act, has now protected 548 million acres of land and water; that's twice the amount of any previous president. (An octopus that is a dead ringer for Casper the Ghost comes from Papahanaumokuakea.)

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