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Obama to Build World's Largest Marine Reserve off Hawaii to Fight Climate Change

Aug 26, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama announced Friday his plans of expanding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, making it the world's largest marine reserve.

According to a report from Reuters, Obama is planning to expand Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, quadrupling its size to 582,500 square miles by using his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act. This move is Obama's final push to fight climate change before he steps down of office on January.

Created in 2006 by former U.S. President George W. Bush, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument originally measures 140,000 square miles.

It is home to a plethora of endangered species as well as the world's healthiest coral reefs. Some of the species found in the monument are blue whale, sea turtles, short-tailed abatrosses and the rare Hawaiian monk seals.

"The best science shows that the ocean can recover, if you allow it to. As daunting as the problem of climate change is, and as troubling as the situation is with respect to our oceans, they show remarkable resilience, if you give them a chance," Senator Brian Schatz told Reuters.

National Geographic notes that the local government also supports Obama's move. Hawaii Governer David Ige says that the expansion of the marine reserve “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."

Currently, Obama, who was born in Hawaii, also prohibited commercial fishing and deep-sea mining within 200 miles of the marine reserve's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). But recreational fishing and scientific research will be allowed but will be required to have a permit.

“The oceans are the untold story when it comes to climate change, and we have to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the ocean that sustains us,” Schatz told Washington Post.

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