Thursday, September 25, 2014

Plans to protect square miles of ocean, working with world's governments

President Obama will use his legal authority
to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve in the central Pacific Ocean
The amount of US ocean highly protected just jumped from 6% to 15%.

From National Geographic by Brian Clark Howard
     & Washington Post by Juliet Eilperin

The National Geographic Society announced a major expansion Monday of its campaign to help protect the planet's most species-rich marine areas, with a goal of convincing governments to officially safeguard more than 770,000 square miles (two million square kilometers) of ocean.

The Society aims to help designate more than 20 new underwater locales as marine reserves in the next five years.
"Preserving our oceans is essential for protecting biodiversity," former President Bill Clinton said as he announced the Society's efforts at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Monday.
"The ocean is the world's largest natural resource," Clinton said, noting that it contributes more than $20 trillion to the global economy. Yet, "human impact on the ocean is undeniable."
The expanded effort will build on National Geographic's Pristine Seas project, which has financed 10 scientific expeditions to remote areas of ocean around the world, including in the South Pacific and off Africa, Russia, and South America.
New efforts will target the Seychelles—an archipelago in the Indian Ocean—northern Greenland, and South America's Patagonia region, Clinton said.

As a result of the program's work, government leaders have protected areas in the United States, Chile, Kiribati, and Costa Rica that cover more than 150,000 square miles (about 400,000 square kilometers).
"A few country leaders have already shown tremendous leadership in ocean conservation by creating the largest marine no-take areas in history," says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who launched Pristine Seas in 2009.
"National Geographic Pristine Seas and our partners are excited to inspire other leaders to protect what's irreplaceable: the last wild places in the ocean."
Terry Garcia, National Geographic's chief science and exploration officer, pointed to overfishing, pollution, and climate change as major threats facing the ocean.

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

If the campaign is successful, it will help countries meet the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity's target of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020.
The Pristine Seas team is already working with national governments to help them create several new marine reserves.

 The waters around Caroline Island, part of the southern Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean, were protected in part thanks to National Geographic's Pristine Seas project.

Another Pristine Seas project would create a reserve around the United Kingdom's Pitcairn Islands.

Partners announced for Pristine Seas include the Waitt Foundation, Prince Albert of Monaco, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Jynwel Foundation, the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust, Blancpain, Davidoff Cool Water, Lindblad Expeditions, Dynamic Planet, former President José María Figueres of Costa Rica, and individual donors.


 Footage from already-protected areas in the Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef,
courtesy of National Geographic.

President Obama will use his legal authority Thursday to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve in the central Pacific Ocean, demonstrating his increased willingness to advance a conservation agenda without the need for congressional approval. (see White House PR)

By broadening the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, Obama has protected more acres of federal land and sea by executive power than any other president in at least 50 years and makes the area off-limits to commercial fishing.
The proclamation will mean added protections for deep-sea coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that administration officials believe are among “the most vulnerable” to the negative impacts of climate change. 
While the new designation is a scaled-back version of an even more ambitious plan the administration had floated in June, it marks the 12th time Obama will have exercised his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect environmental assets.
The decision to continue to allow fishing around roughly half the area's islands and atolls aims to limit any economic impact on the U.S. fishing interests.  

NGA chart with the Marine GeoGarage
 Under the new designation, the administration will expand the fully protected areas from 50 miles offshore from three remote areas — Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll and Jarvis Island — to 200 miles, the maximum area within the United States’ exclusive economic zone.
The existing, 50-mile safeguards around Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, as well as Howland and Baker islands, which are also part of the existing monuments, will not change.

Obama has protected 297 million acres of federal lands and waters through executive action, surpassing George W. Bush, who safeguarded 211 million acres.
While the islands in question are uninhabited, U.S. tuna operators and some officials in Hawaii and American Samoa have opposed the expansion on the grounds that it could make it more difficult to catch tuna and other species at certain times of year.
Fish caught in the area around all seven atolls and islands account for up to 4 percent of the annual U.S. tuna catch in the western and central Pacific, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Matt Rand, who leads the Pew Charitable Trust’s Global Ocean Legacy project, said that because more than half-a-dozen other nations are considering creating new protected areas in the Pacific, “This could be the wave that ultimately propels these marine reserves to become reality.”
 Taken together with the U.S. announcement, these areas could encompass more than 2.3 million square miles of sea.

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