What a Week for Marine Protected Areas! Obama Joins other Leaders in Support of Marine Reserves Around the World

by Carolyn Sotka


Marine life is bountiful on Palmyra Atoll, one of the areas encompassed by the expanded marine reserve.
Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic

Earlier today, President Obama signed a proclamation to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument (PRINMM) from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, three times the state of California.

The designation makes PRINMM the largest marine reserve in the world and covers several small U.S.-controlled islands and atolls in the central Pacific to the west of Hawaii.

Marine reserves do not allow for commercial fishing or other forms of ‘take’ such as drilling or mining and are used as a management tool to conserve and protect critical ocean areas, in perpetuity.

During his administration, Obama has protected more acres of federal land and sea by executive power than any other president in at least 50 years. To learn more about the process, the politics and stakeholders’ reactions to this proclamation check out Juliet Eilperin’s article in The Washington Post.

This action comes on the heels of the Clinton Global Initiative’s expansion of the National Geographic’s Pristine Seas program. On Monday, former U.S. President Bill Clinton outlined the Initiative’s commitment, led by National Geographic to set aside 20 reserves in far-flung ocean areas over the next five years. Currently only 2% of the world’s oceans are protected as opposed to 12% on land.



National Geographic on Pristine Seas Study Sites

According to Dr. Enric Sala, the National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who launched Pristine Seas in 2009, “We are excited to inspire other leaders to protect what’s irreplaceable: the last wild places in the ocean.” He continues, “We have the rare opportunity, right now, to protect many of  ‘these areas’. Over the next five years, leaders can take concrete steps to create a natural legacy that all of us can enjoy.”



Blacktip sharks, bluefin trevallies, and twinspot snappers swim in a lagoon off Caroline Island, also called Millennium Island. Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic

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