US President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced plans to create what could be the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the south-central Pacific Ocean in an effort to protect the ocean and its marine ecosystems.
Obama announced his executive actions in a video message to those present at the second and final day of the two-day “Our Ocean” conference hosted by the US State Department, which focused on sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification.
“We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. So let’s redouble our efforts,” Obama said.
The White House in a background statement said the Obama administration is considering how to “expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south- central Pacific Ocean, an area which contains some of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world.”
The administration will consider the input of fishermen, scientists, conservation experts, elected officials, and other stakeholders “before making decisions about the geographic scope and details,” it added.
The Washington Post, however, reported that Obama is looking at expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from almost 87,000 square miles (225,328 square kilometers) to nearly 782,000 square miles (2.03 million square kilometers) and that the plan will affect seven islands and atolls controlled by the United States.
The newspaper also said that the plan, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, is likely to spark a new political battle with Republicans over the scope of Obama’s executive powers.
Obama also said he is directing federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud, and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace by increasing traceability and transparency.
According to the White House statement, black market fishing constitutes up to 20 per cent of the wild marine fish caught each year around the world, and drains up to 23 billion US dollars from legitimate fishing enterprises.
Kerry explained at the ocean meeting that the announcement by Obama to deal with illegal fishing will ensure that “all seafood sold in the United States is both sustainable and traceable, meaning customers will know exactly who caught it, where and when. “
“We can all do more, and if there’s no market, we have an ability to really to be able to diminish the impact of illegal and undocumented, unwarranted fishing, and we want to do that,” Kerry said.
He said nations at the conference have pledged to invest a total of 1.4 billion dollars towards protecting our ocean. In addition, including Obama’s announcement, marine protections will be extended to cover more than 3 million square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean.
“We need to do more,” Kerry told the heads of state, ministers, scientists, and industry representatives from about 80 countries at the conference. “But that is a terrific start.”
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