President Obama on Thursday created the largest marine reserve in the world by expanding Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean. It expands the monument to cover 490,000 square miles, six times its current size.
“Remote” in the reserve’s name refers to the string of uninhabited tropical islands -- including Howland, where Amelia Earhart was scheduled to refuel on her round-the-world flight before her plane disappeared, Wake and Baker -- as well as atolls and reefs west of Hawaii that make up this monument.
Obama took the action to “more fully protect the deep coral reefs, sea mounts and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world,” a White House announcement says. Commercial fishing will be banned in the waters but recreational fishing will be allowed.
The president invoked the Antiquities Act in expanding the national monument that protected 83,000 square miles when it was created by President George W. Bush in 2009.
The monument protects:
--birds like boobies, frigatebirds and sooty terns that nest on Baker Island;
--many types of coral -- staghorn, brain and others -- that exist on terraces around Baker Island and Kingman Reef;
--sharks, jacks, grouper and parrotfish at Jarvis Island; and
--Green and Hawskbill turtles, humpback whales and species of dolphins that forage in its waters.