News Article | September 18, 2016
The shrimp in your salad or tuna on your plate may have been caught illegally in areas threatened by overfishing. But tracing suspect seafood is a tricky task, given that many boats operate in unseen swaths of the ocean. Global Fishing Watch, a new project from Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, aims to crack down on illegal fishing by training the watchful eye of surveillance satellites on the world's approximately 35,000 commercial fishing vessels. SEE ALSO: Marine conservation efforts just took a major step forward The online technology platform collects more than 22 million data points per day from hundreds of thousands of ships. The free tool, still in its beta phase, lets anybody monitor and track activities of large commercial fishing vessels in near real time. Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor/activist, unveiled Global Fishing Watch last week at the third annual Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C. "This platform will empower citizens across the globe to become powerful advocates for our oceans," he said on Sept. 15 at the two-day summit. More than 85 percent of the world's fisheries are reaching their biological limits due to overfishing, the World Wildlife Fund has estimated. Several popular commercial fish species, like the Atlantic bluefin tuna, have declined so much that their survival is threatened. "Warming waters, acidification, plastic pollution, methane release, drilling, overfishing, and the destruction of marine ecosystems like coral reefs are pushing our oceans to the very brink," DiCaprio said. "The only way we can avert this disaster is by ... scaling up innovative actions and solutions to these problems as quickly as possible," he said. Global Fishing Watch gathers data from vessels' Automatic Identification System (AIS), which boat captains use to broadcast their position, course and speed to nearby ships, base stations and satellites. The surveillance platform uses cloud computing and machine learning to process satellite AIS data and identify which vessels are fishing boats. It then logs when and where those vessels are fishing. The tracker is regularly updated to show vessel tracks and fishing activity from Jan. 1, 2012 through the present, although it operates on a three-day delay. "It will allow governments to track suspicious vessels, enforce rules and reduce seafood fraud," Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana, a global ocean advocacy group, said in a statement. "Journalists and everyday citizens will be able to identify behavior that may be related to illegal fishing or overfishing," she added. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the Our Oceans Conference, which joined diplomats, scientists and conservation groups from around the world to discuss steps to protect oceans from threats such as human-caused climate change, pollution and overfishing. During the summit, countries announced plans to create more than 40 significant new or expanded Marine Protected Areas — including the first U.S. marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean President Barack Obama last week designated over 4,900 square miles off the coast of New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The action comes just weeks after Obama quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea marine monument near Hawaii. The area now encompasses nearly 583,000 square miles — twice the size of Texas. "Our conservation efforts and our obligations to combat climate change in fact go hand in hand, because marine areas already have enough to worry about, with overfishing and ship traffic and pollution," Obama said Sept. 15 in a special address at the summit. "A healthier ocean and a healthier planet are about more than just our environment," the president added. "They are also vital to our foreign policy and to our national security." Conservationists say Marine Protected Areas are needed to spare the oceans from further destruction and keep ecosystems healthy enough to adapt to warming and acidifying waters caused by climate change. The movement took a significant step forward earlier this month when governments and global organizations adopted a measure to protect 30 percent of the world's oceans by 2030. As of now, only about 4 percent of oceans are protected, even including the latest additions announced in Washington. The view from Air Force One, with U.S. President Barack Obama aboard, as the airplane approaches Midway Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Sept. 1, 2016. Global foundations and conservation groups last week pledged a combined $5.3 billion to help protect marine ecosystems, prevent pollution and combat climate change. The Wildlife Conservation Society, Waitt Foundation, blue moon fund and Global Environment Facility together committed $48 million specifically for expanding and managing Marine Protected Areas. "The oceans are our future, and this new fund represents a commitment to safeguarding this invaluable resource," Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement.
News Article | September 2, 2016
FILE- In this Feb. 11, 2016 file photo, rare species of Hawaiian coral being used to create a seed bank grows in a tank at a coral nursery in Honolulu. At the largest international gathering of coral reef experts in May, scientists called for action to save the world's reefs. The international community is coming together to address global warming, wildlife trafficking and environmental conservation at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. The start of the International Coalition for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, which is being held in the U.S. for the first time, began Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 with a Native Hawaiian ceremony. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) HONOLULU (AP) — The international community came together Thursday in Hawaii for 10 days of talks by leading academics, conservation groups and government officials to address the impacts of global warming, wildlife trafficking and environmental conservation. Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced a major sustainability initiative to preserve his state's delicate ecosystem at the opening ceremony of the International Coalition for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress — committing to protect more watershed areas and reefs ecosystems through increased regulation . Ige said Hawaii will also double its local food production to reduce dependence on many items shipped to the islands, and impose a biosecurity plan to remove and prevent the introduction of invasive species that harm local wildlife. The measures come on top of an existing plan for Hawaii, which is the nation's most oil-dependent state, to become energy independent by 2045. "As an island state, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including increased storms, coral bleaching as well as local impacts that place our reefs at risk," said Jack Kittinger, director of Conservation International's Hawaii program in a statement. "CI is grateful to the Governor for committing to protect our natural environment so that it can continue to benefit our communities now and into the future." The conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time, and Ige called Hawaii a "microcosm of our planet earth" but also the "endangered species capital of the world." Also Thursday, President Barack Obama was travelling from Honolulu to one of the most remote corners of the Pacific Ocean — Midway Atoll — to amplify his call for global action on environmental protection. In his latest conservation push, Obama is expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which includes Midway, to four times its current size. Speaking to leaders of Pacific island nations ahead of his trip, Obama said that 7,000 species live in the waters, and 1 in 4 are found nowhere else in the world. "Ancient islanders believed it contained the boundary between this life and the next," Obama told Pacific Island nation leaders Wednesday night before the conference started. "This is a hallowed site, and it deserves to be treated that way. And from now on, it will be preserved for future generations." The marine monument will grow to 582,578 square miles under Obama's expansion, an area more than twice the size of Texas. The world's largest, the monument reflects Obama's strategy of using his executive powers to put lands and waters off-limits to development, despite concerns from critics who argue his heavy-handed approach comes at the expense of vulnerable local economies. A study released Wednesday ahead of the conservation conference concluded that Africa's population of savanna elephants is rapidly declining. The animals are in danger of being wiped out as international and domestic ivory trades drive poaching across the continent, the study said. The African savanna elephant population plummeted about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014 and is currently declining at about 8 percent annually, according to the survey funded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen. "If we can't save the African elephant, what is the hope of conserving the rest of Africa's wildlife?" asked elephant ecologist Mike Chase, the study's lead researcher. After the most powerful El Nino on record heated the world's oceans to never-before-seen levels over the past two years, huge swaths of once vibrant coral reefs that were once teeming with life are now stark white ghost towns disintegrating into the sea. The world's top marine scientists are still struggling to find the political and financial backing to tackle the loss of these globally important ecosystems. At the largest international gathering of coral reef experts in May, scientists called for action to save the world's reefs. Australia's famed Great Barrier Reef is among those hit hard, and the scientists urged the government of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to do more to conserve it. "This year has seen the worst mass bleaching in history," the letter said. "The damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating." The conference in Hawaii is hosting more than 8,000 people from 180 nations. Find more stories by AP's Caleb Jones at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/caleb-jones Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CalebAP
News Article | August 31, 2016
US President Barack Obama is expected to be among the world leaders in Honolulu as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) opens its World Conservation Congress, held every four years in a different location around the globe. This year, the conference theme of "Planet at the Crossroads" is aimed at exposing the plight of island nations that are at risk of disappearing in the coming decades due to rising seas. It is the first major environmental meeting of global leaders since the Paris climate talks last year. The September 1-10 conference also marks the first time the IUCN World Congress has been held in the United States since the meeting was first convened in 1948. Arguments are expected on hotly debated issues such as what to do about domestic ivory markets which lead to the killing of elephants for their tusks, and how to feed the world's growing population without exhausting its natural resources. "There should be a fair amount of fireworks," John Robinson, the head of the Wildlife Conservation Society's global conservation program told AFP. Obama's visit—if it is not disrupted by Hurricane Madeline—comes on the heels of his move last week to expand the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian islands, making it the world's largest marine protected area. In Honolulu on Wednesday, Obama plans to address the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, before departing for Midway Atoll the next day. "The President will be discussing the role that remote islands play in the climate context, but also the importance of the intersection between conservation and climate change as we face an increasingly severe threat of climate change in these parts of the world," said Brian Deese, Obama's senior advisor. Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security advisor, described the event as "an important opportunity to bring together not just Pacific island leaders who have been a motivating factor around the urgency of action against climate change, but also conservation advocates from around the world." A key piece of news at the event will be the update of the IUCN's Red List of endangered and threatened species on September 4. Other reports on efforts to balance oil and gas exploration with whale conservation, and the establishment of important biodiversity areas will also be announced in the first five days. During the second part of the conference, from September 6 to 10, members will hold debates on wildlife trafficking, palm oil, income inequality in conservation, foresty practices, and more. The meeting is seen as an opportunity to find common ground on tough decisions and lay the groundwork for future talks, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference which kicks off in late September in Johannesburg. Any motion passed at the IUCN meeting, "becomes a resolution which carries considerable weight" at the CITES convention two weeks later, "which does have legal teeth," explained Robinson. Over 8,300 delegates from 184 countries are expected to attend the IUCN World Congress. "This unique gathering of top minds holds the key to innovation, inspiration and most importantly, action," said Zhang Xinsheng, IUCN president. Explore further: Australia unveils new park ahead of World Parks Congress
News Article | August 26, 2016
President Barack Obama on Friday quadrupled the size of a national marine monument off the coast of Hawaii, making it the largest protected area of any kind — marine or terrestrial —in the world. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will now span 582,578 square miles near the Northern Hawaiian Islands, the Obama administration announced on Friday. This is four times the size of the state of California. The administration was able to expand the monument, which President George W. Bush first designated in 2006, using Obama's executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The islands, described as "America's Galapagos," encompass the most intact tropical marine region under U.S. control. Many of the 7,000 marine species in the protected area — including whales, sea turtles and ancient black coral — are fighting for survival as intensive commercial fishing and human-caused climate change destroy their habitats worldwide. SEE ALSO: Climate activists blame Exxon Mobil for largest coral bleaching event on record Obama will head to the Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced "Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah") Monument on Sept. 1 to draw attention to the threats that warming ocean temperatures and rising sea levels pose to marine ecosystems, according to the White House announcement. The president will visit Midway Atoll, the site of a decisive naval battle during World War II and a remote coral reef facing significant ecological strains. The atoll's Eastern Island, a habitat for millions of seabirds, could all but disappear if sea levels rise by 6.5 feet, or 2 meters, by the end of the century, the U.S. Geological Survey found in a 2013 study. The wider Hawaiian archipelago is also suffering from one of the worst and longest-lasting coral bleaching events in its history because of persistently high ocean temperatures. The warmer water puts stress on the coral, which in turn expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissue and give them nutrients and color. Without the algae, the coral turn white or pale and become more vulnerable to disease and death. In Lisianski Atoll, which lies within the Papahānaumokuākea monument, about one-and-a-half square miles of reef bleached and died in 2014 — the worst bleaching event scientists had seen at the atoll, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last October. Severely bleached coral are seen near Lisianski Island in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in August 2014. Obama's action on Friday won't necessarily slow the spread of coral bleaching events or shield the fragile ecosystems from warming and more acidic waters and rising sea levels. But it will protect marine species from harmful human activities by banning commercial fishing, mineral extraction and other resource-depleting industries. The new area will also serve as a "natural laboratory" where scientists can monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems and study how the region's biological resources adapt, the Obama administration said. "The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the most diverse and threatened ecosystems on the planet and a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday in a statement. "President Obama’s expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will permanently protect pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats and important cultural and historic resources for the benefit of current and future generations," Jewell added. Obama is the seventh U.S. president to take steps to protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. President Teddy Roosevelt was the first, establishing the Hawaiian Islands Bird Reservation in 1909. President George W. Bush later created the Papahānaumokuākea monument in 2006, setting aside 139,818 square miles to protect and preserve the marine wildlife and the area's historic, cultural and scientific features. The original monument's boundaries were more than 100 times the size of Yosemite National Park in California and larger than 46 of the 50 U.S. states, Bush said at the time. The former president said he was inspired by a documentary about the Northern Hawaiian Island's biological resources show at the White House by Jean-Michel Cousteau, a marine explorer and son of the late Jacques Cousteau, according to news reports. Bush was also encouraged after talking with renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society since 1998. Sylvia Earle speaks at "The Ocean in 2050" forum at National Geographic Museum in Washington, May 14, 2015. Earle has fought for decades to create marine protected areas across the planet. Her foundation, the Sylvia Earle Alliance, aims to create a global network of such areas to safeguard 20 percent of the ocean by 2020. The explorer told National Geographic on Friday that Obama's announcement buoys hope that the U.S. can lead the way in developing this network. Native Hawaiian leaders and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, first proposed the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea monument in June, on the 10th anniversary of President Bush's executive order establishing the original boundaries. In a letter to Obama, Schatz called for quadrupling the monument's size while still allowing for local, sustainable fishing by island communities. Recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices are allowed within the expanded monument by permit, as is scientific research. "Papahānaumokuākea is critically important to Native Hawaiian culture—it is our ancestral place, the birthplace of all life," Sol Kahoʻohalahala, a seventh-generation Hawaiian from the island of Lanai, said in a statement from Global Ocean Legacy, a project run by Pew Charitable Trusts. "The expanded monument will serve as a conservation, climate, and cultural refuge for my granddaughter and future generations," Kahoʻohalahala added.
News Article | November 3, 2016
Halfway between the United States and Asia, Midway's three islets are surrounded by vibrant coral reefs and are home to the biggest colony of Laysan albatrosses on Earth. The large, white and black seabirds pair off and mate for life, nesting and raising their young on Midway. President Barrack Obama recently traveled here to announce the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, now the world's biggest oceanic preserve. "I look forward to knowing that 20 years from now, 40 years from now, 100 years from now, this is a place where people can still come to and see what a place like this looks like when it's not overcrowded and destroyed by human populations," Obama said. The atoll is a place where many people have lived, and perished—almost 3,000 in the historic conflict with Japan. And the public has not been allowed to visit the refuge or the battle monuments for years. Midway is now a mix of boarded-up buildings left over from the island's military heyday and freshly painted facilities still in use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Fish and Wildlife has every right and obligation to protect the wildlife, but they also have an obligation to protect the historic sites and the meaning of Midway," said James D'Angelo, founder of the International Midway Memorial Foundation. "It is precisely because of the men that lived and died that that memory should never be forgotten." Six months after the Pearl Harbor attack, American forces turned away the Japanese at Midway and went on the offensive. In all, 2,500 Japanese and 307 Americans were killed in the battle. The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1988 when the atoll was still under Navy control. In 1996, management was transferred to the wildlife agency with a mandate to maintain and preserve not only the wildlife but the atoll's historical significance. Since 2000, the site has been designated as a National Memorial to the Battle of Midway. The original seaplane hangar is deeply rusted and has shrapnel pockmarks. Behind it, a huge pile of desks, bicycles, rusting metal and broken speedboat engines await removal. Midway sits amid a collection of man-made debris called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along Midway's paths lay piles of feathers with rings of plastic in the middle—remnants of birds that died with the plastic in their guts. Each year the agency removes about 20 tons of plastic and debris that washes ashore from surrounding waters. The critically endangered short-tailed albatross can be found only on Midway and one other small Pacific island. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles also frequent Midway's shores. In 1996, the government reached an agreement with the Georgia-based Phoenix Midway Corp. to help operate the island's visitor program, with lodging, a restaurant, a dive shop and bowling alley, at no cost to taxpayers. But, in its six years of operation, the company had only one profitable month, according to a document submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service and provided to The Associated Press by the memorial foundation. In mid-2001, the company pulled out. After that, there was either no visitor program or a limited one. "It's financial suicide for anybody to think that they can go in unless they were given the carte blanche rights to run the island," said Bob Tracey, Phoenix Midway's former executive vice president. In 2014, the Congressional Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held an oversight hearing about Midway. "Objective observers can certainly question whether it was a mistake to transfer this sacred ground to an agency that is far better equipped to maintain birds than visitors," said the chairman, Rep. John Fleming, R-La. The Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that the wildlife agency "maintained most historic properties" but tore down seven others without the required public notice. But the GAO noted funding has been slashed from $4 million annually to less than $3 million, resulting in the end of public visitation in 2012. Officials say more than $1 million a year would be required to reestablish a visitation program, excluding startup costs. Matthew Brown, Fish and Wildlife's superintendent for the marine national monument, said sustainable tourism is feasible despite the challenges. "It's a very logistically challenging place to do anything," he said. Its World War II-era structures weren't built to last, and some are coated in lead paint, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Megan Nagel said, noting Laysan albatross ingest the paint chips, causing illness. And too many visitors could disturb the delicate ecosystem, Nagel said. For example, some seabirds here are attracted to lights that would be needed for modern accommodations. Some contend a private company could easily profit from a visitation program on Midway, but "evidence shows that is historical fiction," Guam Rep. Madeleine Bordallo said at the 2014 congressional hearing. "Preservation of historic resources is expensive. If we value it as a country, we should pay for it." In this Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, a large pile of debris is piled up on Midway Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, during a tour by President Barack Obama. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. But the remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) In this Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, a white tern chick is carried on Midway Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, during a visit by President Barack Obama. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. The remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. The white tern chicks and eggs are brought to an "orphanage" to be hand-reared to protect the population. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) In this Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, the power station building, also known as the Cannon Building, is seen on Midway Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, during a tour by President Barack Obama. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. But the remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. During the attack of Midway, the power station building was bombed and Lieutenant George H. Cannon was mortally wounded. It is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said that the building is not in use. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) This photo April 17, 2015 photo provided by the United States Government Accountability Office shows the Theater of the Midway Mall, designed by the architect Albert Kahn, and constructed before the Battle of Midway during World War II. The theater is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. But the remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. Six murals were removed from the theater and sent to the Pacific Aviation Museum for preservation and display. (U.S. Government Accountability Office via AP) In this April 16, 2015 photo provided by the United States Government Accountability Office, the Officer-in-Charge House, is shown on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. The remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. The Officer-inCharge House was designed by the architect Albert Kahn and constructed in 1941. It is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses the building to house the refuge manager of Midway Atoll. (Government Accountability Office via AP) In this June, 1942 file photo, a Japanese ship lies low in the water after being bombed by U.S. Naval aircraft during the Battle of Midway in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. But the remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. The public hasn't been allowed to visit the refuge or the battle monuments for years. (AP Photo, File) In this June, 1942 file photo, black smoke rises from a burning U.S. oil tank, set afire during the Battle of Midway on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in World War II's Pacific theater. The remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and a new battle is pitting preservation of its vaunted military history against the protection of its wildlife. (AP Photo, File) Explore further: Oldest known seabird is back at Midway Atoll near Hawaii
News Article | August 26, 2016
Obama's proclamation quadrupled in size a monument originally created by President George W. Bush in 2006. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument will contain some 582,578 square miles, more than twice the size of Texas. The president is slated to travel to the monument next week to mark the new designation and cite the need to protect public lands and waters from climate change. The president was born in Hawaii and spent much of his childhood there. In expanding the monument, Obama cited its "diverse ecological communities" as well as "great cultural significance to the Native Hawaiian community and a connection to early Polynesian culture worthy of protection and understanding." The monument designation bans commercial fishing and any new mining, as is the case within the existing monument. Recreational fishing will be allowed through a permit, as will be scientific research and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices. The regional council that manages U.S. waters in the Pacific Islands voiced disappointment with Obama's decision, saying it "serves a political legacy" rather than a conservation benefit. The council recommends catch limits and other steps designed to sustain fisheries. It said it recommended other expansion options that would have minimized impacts to the Hawaii longline fishery, which supplies a large portion of the fresh tuna and other fish consumed in Hawaii. "Closing 60 percent of Hawaii's waters to commercial fishing, when science is telling us that it will not lead to more productive local fisheries, makes no sense," said Edwin Ebiusi Jr., chairman of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council "Today is a sad day in the history of Hawaii's fisheries and a negative blow to our local food security." Sean Martin, the president of the Hawaii Longline Association, said his organization was disappointed Obama closed an area nearly the size of Alaska without a public process. "This action will forever prohibit American fishermen from accessing those American waters. Quite a legacy indeed," he said in an email to The Associated Press. The Pew Charitable Trusts helped lead the push to expand the monument. It says research shows that very large, fully protected marine reserves are necessary to rebuild fish populations and diversity of species. "By expanding the monument, President Obama has increased protections for one of the most biologically and culturally significant places on the planet" said Joshua S. Reichert, an executive vice president at Pew. The White House is describing the expansion as helping to protect more than 7,000 species and improving the resiliency of an ecosystem dealing with ocean acidification and warming. It also is emphasizing that the expanded area is considered a sacred place for Native Hawaiians. Shipwrecks and downed aircraft from the Battle of Midway in World War II dot the expansion area. The battle marked a major shift in the war. Obama will travel to the Midway Atoll to discuss the expansion. With the announcement, Obama will have created or expanded 26 national monuments. The administration said Obama has protected more acreage through national monument designations than any other president. The White House said the expansion is a response to a proposal from Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz and prominent Native Hawaiian leaders. The federal government will also give Hawaii's Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs a greater role in managing the monument, an arrangement requested by Schatz and Gov. David Ige. Ige signed off on the expansion Wednesday, telling Obama in a letter that there had been tremendous debate on the issue locally. In the end, he decided the "proposal strikes the right balance at this time for the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, and it can be a model for sustainability in the other oceans of planet Earth." But American Samoa's delegate in the House of Representatives, Aumua Amata, said the monument expansion would place an already economically challenged territory at greater risk. "Our local fishing industry, which comprises more than 80 percent of the local economy, depends heavily on access to these waters," Amata said. Explore further: Federal agencies must protect America's Pacific Island monuments from illegal fishing
News Article | September 2, 2016
The climate change agreement reached in Paris last December was formally signed by more than 100 nations this past Earth Day. But like previous agreements, the initiative’s fate rests on two major players: the United States and China. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to both sign the agreement this weekend, according to Bloomberg and multiple other outlets. The G-20 summit in Asia provides the opportunity for the two countries, which reportedly emit about 38 percent of the global carbon emissions, to formalize the agreement. Obama last week quadrupled the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii, making it the largest marine preserve in the world. The president visited the island of Midway this week before heading off to China. “I look forward to knowing that 209 years from now, 40 years from now, 100 years from now, this is a place where people can still come to and see what a place like this looks like when it’s not overcrowded and destroyed by human populations,” Obama said, from the island. Previous international environmental agreements like the Kyoto Protocol have failed because of non-participation of the U.S. and some other nations. Obama will use his executive authority to ratify the agreement. However, opponents at home including many Republican members of Congress have pledged to block any international agreement signed. "Clearly the true purpose of the President's climate policies have nothing to do with protecting the interests of the American people," said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R- OK), who brought a snowball onto the Senate floor last year. "Instead they are meant to (line) the pocketbooks of his political patrons.” Climate change denial contends scientific consensus has not yet been reached proving humanity’s effects on global conditions. Some refer vaguely to a conspiracy leading to global governance, and massive wealth distribution. No connection between the hundreds of studies and thousands of scientists has yet been established. Many deniers have predicted that the theory would be debunked within a few years. China has posed its own challenges to any international cooperation. For decades they lied about how much pollution they were spewing into the air – and it was only increased scrutiny ahead of the Paris talks that revealed their deception. Obama has positioned climate at the center of his agenda for his remaining months in office. Global temperatures continue to set warmth records in 2016, according to experts.
News Article | February 17, 2017
(AP) — The world's oldest known seabird has a new chick. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday Wisdom's offspring hatched at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge last week. The Laysan albatross is at least 66 years old and is the world's oldest breeding bird in the wild. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader Bob Peyton says Wisdom has returned to Midway for over six decades. He says she has raised at least 30 chicks. Midway Atoll is home to the world's largest colony of albatross. The island about 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu was the site of a pivotal World War II battle. Nearly 70 percent of the world's Laysan albatross rely on the atoll for habitat. Midway is part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
News Article | September 17, 2016
President Obama visited Turtle Beach on Midway Atoll in the Pacific this month to promote his expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. On Thursday, the president declared a marine monument in the Atlantic that is the size of Connecticut.
News Article | February 3, 2016
Scientists have announced the discovery of four new species of deep-water algae in Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The new species were collected between 200-400 feet, depths not typically known for marine algae.