Obama by executive action could create world’s largest ocean preserve

Wisconsin Gazette

President Barack Obama on June 17 announced executive actions aimed at creating the world’s largest ocean preserve.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry announced a global call to protect the oceans and the State Department hosted an international conference on sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

The president, in a video message to conference participants, said, “We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. 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 executive actions, which do not require congressional approval, include:

• Deciding how to expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean, an area that contains pristine tropical marine environments. The tropical coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

• Directing federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace by increasing traceability and transparency. Black market fishing constitutes up to 20 percent of the wild marine fish caught each year around the world, and drains up to $23 billion from legitimate fishing enterprises.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Expanding these protections will provide a safe haven for coral gardens, seamounts, and the rich waters that support hundreds of species of fish, sea turtles, giant clams, dolphins, whales and sharks, conserving them for future generations. This represents a commitment to the kind of bold action needed to restore the failing health of our ocean, on which we all depend and continues the bipartisan tradition of ocean protection.”