As previously reported by the New York Times, President Obama recently visited Midway Atoll, which is part of an uninhabited island in Hawaii, to recognize his expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and address the growing threat of climate change.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
This area is now the largest protected area in the world, encompassing 583,000 square miles. The area is home to over 7,000 different species, many of which are endangered animals, and a quarter of them are only found in this area. This area was first put under protective status in 1909 by Theodore Roosevelt as part of a response to the over-harvesting of sea birds. He established the area as Hawaiian Islands Bird Reservation. Later, in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt converted the area into a wildlife refuge. Many other orders of protection followed afterwards. In 2000, Bill Clinton designated the waters around the area a National Marine Sanctuary. Finally, in 2006, President Bush gave the area national monument status. The reason for this is because it gave the area immediate and more thorough protection; the protection could only be revoked through proper legislation. Obama furthered the work done by the previous presidents by almost quadrupling the amount of land under protection. Scientists and environmentalists support the expansion by Obama, believing it is a necessary course of action to save wildlife species and help combat the issue of climate change. However, some aren’t as happy about the change, most notably commercial fishermen.
Is Expansion the Best Thing?
The fishing industry sees the expansion of at Papahānaumokuakea as an unnecessary hindrance on their fishing practices. They believe it will cause the industry harm because it will prohibit long-line fishing in the protected area. According to some, this move does not provide any benefits to conservation and is not based off the best available scientific data. They believe it is more of a political move for Obama to build a lasting legacy, instead of helping in the area of conservation. However, Obama has voiced the necessity for this action, seeing it as a message to everyone that is critical to address the effects of global warming on our waters and save wildlife from the effects humans have had on the environment. President Obama has been invited to return in a couple years, so he can see just how much he has done for the animals he wanted to protect. Those at the facility thank Obama, and it is believed that the animals will too.