More than half a million square miles around the islands of Hawaii now make up the largest ecologically protected environment on the planet. Known as the Papahanaumokuakea (take a deep breath, it’s pronounced “Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah,” and exhale) National Monument, President Barack Obama more than quadrupled the size of the marine life safe haven to more than 548 million acres, protecting both land and sea.
The monument was originally established by George W. Bush a decade ago. President Obama, however, increased the size to further his mission to safeguard the environment and prevent the effects of climate change. To achieve this, he stretched his executive arms around congress thanks to the 1906 Antiquities Act. From here on out, all commercial fishing, seabed mining, and other extraction activities will cease. Recreational fishing and scientific research will still be permitted, with a federal permit.
As we are sure you’ve guessed, this did not come without opposition. Leading the pushback were commercial fishing companies, arguing that the expansion would capsize their industry. In order to effectively run their business, their boats travel with the migrations of the fish. This new expansion takes 60 percent of the waters around Hawaii off of their maps, disrupting their movement with the schools.
To their dismay, the area was protected, but for most it’s not a bad thing. The archipelago is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. It is the planet’s largest seabird gathering spot (imagine the seagulls from Finding Nemo meeting up for after-work drinks). There are more than 14 million birds spread across 22 species present, and is home to the remaining Hawaiian monk seals.
Hawaiian locals supported President Obama’s decision, saying that it strengthened their culture and will allow the thriving life to continue on naturally. Also, it will allow them to continue and strengthen their bond with the life around them in the environment. We are pretty happy to see that the manmade world (as beautiful as it can be) isn’t trampling this small piece of the natural world just yet.