The ocean. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We’ve all felt the waves on our feet and spent time squishing our toes into the sand. Whether it be purely just for enjoyment or economic purposes the ocean has impacted all of our lives in some way. We take a lot out of the ocean which then raises the question what are we putting back in return? It turns out that what we are ‘putting back’ is not doing much good for the ocean or for us. The need to protect our oceans is an ever-growing concern in our ever-growing world.
Recently the President of the United States Barack Obama announced plans to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, an area located in the central Pacific Ocean (BBC News). Not only does Obama plan to expand the monument he intends to make it the largest protected area on the planet, including both land and sea. Forget the Great Wall of China; the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument could be visible from space! Obama enforced this decision under the Antiquities Act, which allows areas to be protected if they are unique and worthy for future generations (Vincent and Baldwin). Currently the plan is to expand the protected ocean area surrounding Wake Island, Johnston Atoll and Jarvis Island from 50 miles offshore to 200 miles offshore (Clark). Biologically, the area is teeming with wildlife, ranging from coral reefs to many species of pelagic shark. Take a peek at this National Geographic video illustrating the enormous biodiveristy in this area http://bit.ly/1rJyaqP. Conservationists globally are singing Obama’s praises and there has also been strong support from the public (Clark).
However various other domains have opposed Obama’s decision. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, based in Hawaii believes that current maritime fishery laws already adequately protect this area (Clark). Fishers from Hawaii state that though the closest island is located 900 miles away they still frequently rely on the area for commercial fishing (Clark). Other fishers believe that the area houses large reserves of tuna and that their stock will be significantly depleted if they are restricted from fishing there. However many conservationists argue that 90% of the worlds tuna has already been depleted and that only 16% of boats actually fish in the area (Clark).
Personally I think the expansion is the first step forward in creating an ocean friendly world. We tend to be ‘land-centric’ thinkers and while this is understandable, it must also be adjustable. The expansion will protect twenty marine mammal species as well as five species of sea turtles. The coral reefs are expected to attract divers worldwide, which will benefit the tourism industry. This is an ocean conservation success story if I’ve ever read one!
The ocean covers approximately 71% of the planet and yet only approximately 2% of it is currently protected (Clark). The oceans really are ‘our oceans’. Not only is it our duty to protect the oceans it is also in our direct interest. Obama’s decision is a leap forward in ocean conservation and hopefully will lead to more decisions that embrace and protect our blue planet.
Howard, Brian Clark. Obama Announces Plan to Create World’s Largest Ocean Reserve. National Geographic, 17 June. 2014. Web. 19 Sep. 2014.
Howard, Brian Clark. U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger than California. National Geographic, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.
Obama creates vast Pacific Ocean marine reserve. BBC News, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.
Vincent, Carol Hardy, and Pamela Baldwin. “National Monuments and the Antiquities Act.” Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 2000. Print.