President Obama acted Tuesday to create the largest ocean preserve by expanding a marine sanctuary in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean.
The proposal would go into effect this year after a comment period and could double the area of the world’s oceans that is protected from fishing, drilling, and other commercial activities.
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“We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations,” Obama said in a White House news release
. “So let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world.”
The proposal calls for the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, established by former President George W. Bush in 2009.
Obama hasn’t yet determined the boundaries of the expansion, but The Associated Press reported
the effort could protect more than 780,000 square miles — almost nine times what Bush set aside.
The proposal is expected to have limited practical implications, according to the AP, because little commercial fishing and no gas or oil exploration currently is underway in the area.
"These are fairly long distances from any ports, and they're very expensive to get to," said Lance Morgan of the Marine Conservation Institute said, according to the AP. "Still, we don't know what all the future uses are going to be."
Republicans criticized Obama’s use of executive power.
“Oceans, like our federal lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of economic activities that includes fishing, recreation, conservation, and energy production. It appears this administration will use whatever authorities — real or made-up — to close our ocean and coastal areas with blatant disregard for possible economic consequences,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, according to The New York Times
Obama’s proposal also calls for a program to combat seafood fraud and the global black-market fish trade and would allow the public to nominate new marine sanctuaries.
Reactions on Twitter were mixed.
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