Ask President Obama to Finish the Job of Preserving Some of the Healthiest Parts of the Pacific Ocean: Full Expansion and Strong Protection for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument
President Obama recently proposed enlarging the existing marine monuments around seven remote places in the central Pacific to permanently protect the reefs, underwater mountains, seabirds, turtles, marine mammals and fishes that live there from damaging activities like fishing. The proposal would create the largest network of marine protected areas in the world, an area over four times larger than California, and augment a large network of marine protected areas that other Pacific countries (e.g., Palau, Kiribati, Cook Islands) have begun to establish in the same area.
But commercial tuna fishermen on Hawaii and underwater mining interests are fighting back; and we need your help to make sure the plan goes forward. Please sign our petition to President Obama.
The Pacific Remote Islands Are Special Places Worthy of the Highest Levels of Protection
These remote islands and the deep ocean around them provide important places for marine wildlife to feed, breed, live and migrate. Specifically, the nearly pristine ocean around the islands contains:
- Important habitat for endangered species of sea turtles and marine mammals
- Remarkably rich coral ecosystems containing species like giant clams wiped out elsewhere by harvesting
- Homes for an estimated 14 million seabirds that feed sometimes hundreds miles from their island nest
- 250 undersea mountains which host incredible biodiversity --scientists still find new species of life there
- Migratory corridors for marine mammals, sea turtles and fish that swim huge distances around the Pacific
The U.S. has jurisdiction over a greater area of the ocean than any other country in the world, yet a mere 3 percent of US waters is fully protected. And, only 1 percent of the global ocean is currently fully protected in marine reserves. In contrast, more than 10 percent of America’s total land area benefits from some form of protection. We need to ramp up our efforts today if we are to ensure healthy oceans for tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Kydd Pollock/USFWS
The existing protected areas extending 50 miles around the islands were not established using any scientific guidelines. The latest science strongly supports protecting large areas that provide for all major needs of marine species (e.g., protecting both the nesting and feeding areas for seabirds). Highly migratory species such as endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles traverse this region along with rare species such as beaked whales and melon-headed whales. The near-pristine islands and atolls, seamounts and surrounding waters are among the world’s healthiest and most intact ocean ecosystems, and provide stepping stones for species moving across the central Pacific. They are an irreplaceable area of significant scientific interest as a baseline for how intact tropical ecosystems function.
I heartily support your executive action to give permanent, strong protection for the wildlife in the waters surrounding these islands by excluding all commercial fishing and mineral extraction, and any other activities that would degrade them. Given this history-making opportunity, I strongly recommend extending existing protections throughout the expanded Monument to 200 nautical miles.
I applaud you, Mr. President, for understanding the importance of healthy oceans and strongly protecting the nearly pristine ecosystems surrounding the Pacific Remote Islands. By doing so, you demonstrate global leadership and send a strong message to countries around the world that the U.S. is willing to pay a small price in order to restore our oceans.
I look forward to celebrating the historic day when you designate the largest strongly protected place on Earth.