The islands making up the marine national reserve
include Baker, Howland, Wake and Jarvis islands, as well as Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and the Palmyra Atoll. Lying about midway between Hawaii and American Samoa, since 2009, the level of protection has extended out 50 miles from shore.
The new proclamation, signed on Thursday by President Obama, dramatically expands the protected zone around the monument from a 50-mile radius, to a 200-mile radius. With an additional 490,000 square miles of ocean waters in and around the tropical islands, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is now the largest marine reserve in the world.
The move by President Obama to expand the Bush-era marine preserve national monument by using his executive powers
is something that has been done since 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt established the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. The move was also considered an attempt by the president to show sincere, positive action in protecting the environment, despite Congressional opposition to any environmental legislation.
The proclamation makes deep sea-mining, drilling and commercial fishing strictly off-limits. Sport-fishing will be allowed. According to the Associated Press
, Secretary of State John Kerry said, "This really is a matter of stewardship. It's also a matter of generational responsibility. We have a responsibility to make sure our kids and their families, and the future has the same ocean to serve it in the same way as we have — not to be abused, but to preserve and utilize."
Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument
The importance of this national monument
to present and future generations of Americans and citizens of the world cannot be over-emphasized. According to data in a White House fact sheet:
"From overfishing to climate change, the world's oceans are under assault from a wide array of man-made threats that are altering the chemistry of ocean waters; they are becoming more acidic, which harms corals and shellfish. The acidity of the ocean is changing 50 times faster than any known change in millions of years,"
Millions of marine animals live in the pristine waters surrounding the islands. In addition, more than 130 "seamounts," under-water mountains with a great deal of biodiversity, some as yet to be discovered, will now be protected. The islands include endemic trees, grasses and birds, specifically adapted to living on the Equator.
Coral reefs full of color and life
In the above photo of pink corals seen on the Palmyra Atoll, it is easy to see why we must continue to protect the earth and everything on it, Healthy corals are a sure sign of a healthy ecosystem. Palmyra Atoll has an unique, hot Equatorial climate. The atoll is located within the low pressure area of what is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone
where the northeast and southeast trade winds meet. Because of this convergence, the atoll gets upwards of 150-200 inches of rainfall every year.