Hawaii: Obama creates world’s largest marine sanctuary

The USA has designated Hawaii as the largest marine reserve in the world. US President Barack Obama expanded the zone established by his predecessor George W. Bush in 2006 by more than fourfold on Friday using his executive rights.

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument now covers 1.5 million square kilometers. It replaces a region off the Cook Islands as the world’s largest marine protected area. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument has also been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2010.

According to the White House, a total of 7,000 species – including whales, dolphins and sharks – are at home in the expanded area. A third of them can only be found off Hawaii. Rare albatrosses are now also protected species, as are five species of sea turtles. Submarine volcanoes and coral reefs should also be protected from harmful influences.

“Brave” decision

The Hawaii-born Obama is also helping his homeland – 98 percent of the United States‘ protected marine waters are now located there. As early as 2014, Obama significantly enlarged a nature reserve in the Pacific Ocean, which also goes back to his predecessor George W. Bush. Since then, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument covers almost 1.3 million square kilometers.

Location of the reserve: The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is located west of Hawaii – the Midway Atoll also belongs to it.

Greenpeace welcomed the designation of the world’s largest marine reserve as a “brave” decision. The environmental organization has long been demanding that 40 percent of the world’s oceans should be given protection status in order to be able to preserve the diversity of animal and plant species.

Criticism of Obama’s decision came from the fishermen in the region – because of the expansion of the area, 60 percent of the waters off Hawaii can no longer be used for commercial fishing.

In the Arctic Ocean, the US government set completely different priorities in 2015. It allowed the energy giant Shell to drill for oil and gas on the northwest coast of Alaska.

The US government’s decision at the time was a blow to environmentalists who categorically oppose drilling in Arctic waters. They repeatedly point out that an accident in the Arctic Ocean could have far more devastating consequences than the accident on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. In 2010, eleven people were killed in the accident, millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico and caused serious damage to the ecosystem.

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