The Wilderness Society applauds the Obama Administration for advancing bipartisan efforts to further protect ocean ecosystems and their scientific value by using the Antiquities Act to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, an undisturbed island and atoll chain located 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. The proclamation builds on the approximately 83,000 square-mile national monument initially designated by President George W. Bush in 2009.
The collection of 130 sea mounts and ecological features of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument create a biodiversity hotspot akin to the Galapagos Islands. Up to half the creatures that live there are found nowhere else on Earth, including a new whale species identified in April. Protected ocean areas also supply exceptional locations for research on everything from medical advances, discovering new plant and animal life, and understanding climate change.
“We support conservation that takes a forward-looking eye toward future generations and considers the integrity of all ecosystems, including the oceans,” says Matt Keller, national monuments campaign director with The Wilderness Society. “Just as it is critical to protect large, connected landscapes for plants and animals on land, marine species need similar undisturbed areas that are havens for reproduction, feeding, and raising young.”
Safeguarding the islands and their underwater complexity will help ensure the survival and recovery of a number of threatened and endangered species like leatherback turtles, 22 species of whales including the endangered blue whale and humpback whale, whitetip sharks, yellowfin tuna and other large predatory fish whose populations have declined 90% across the world’s oceans, and millions of migratory seabirds.
“Conservation is of paramount importance to the American people—both on land and at sea—and the Administration is continuing a long line of 16 Republican and Democratic presidents who have used the measure to protect natural resources for future generations,” adds Keller.
The proposal received overwhelming support from scientists, businesses, and conservation groups—more than 200 scientists, 200 Native Hawaiian leaders, 35 Hawai’i business leaders, 40 national conservation groups and foundations, and 135,000 U.S. citizens sent messages of support to the White House during the public comment period.
With more than two dozen conservation bills stalled in Congress this year, conservation groups encourage President Obama to act under the authority of the Antiquities Act to help advance protections for America’s clean air, water, and wildlife.