The White House announced on Friday (26 August) that US President Barack Obama will be increasing the size of the Hawaii marine reserve four-fold — making it the largest protected area in the world. The president will be visiting the area on the 1st of September to highlight the threat of climate change to oceans and marine life.
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, situated off the coast of Hawaii, was first established by former President George W. Bush 10 years ago and covered 140,000 sq miles of ocean. With Obama's expansion, the area will cover 582,500 sq miles.
Commercial fishing will now be banned in the area which contains over 7,000 marine species. It also contains a coral thought to be the world's oldest living organism at 4,265-years-old.
Obama will visit the Hawaiian archipelago on 31 August to address heads of state and conservation leaders as part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress. The next day he will visit Midway Atoll — a site famous for its monk seals, sea turtles and seabirds.
Obama was born in Hawaii and spent a large part of his childhood there. Though popular amongst conservationists, the move to expand the area was criticised by some longline commercial fisherman who count on the area for between 3 -13% of their catch.