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World's Largest Marine Reserve to Protect Pacific Ocean

Sep 26, 2014 02:31 PM EDT

President Barack Obama used his executive powers to create the world's largest marine reserve in an effort to protect the Pacific Ocean.

After signing a memorandum, Obama ensured that all commercial fishing, deep-sea mining and other extraction of underwater resources in the area would be banned, according to the White House press release.

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, now the largest network of oceanic protected areas in the world, consists of seven scattered islands, atolls and reefs that lie between Hawaii and American Samoa. Thanks to Obama's proclamation, the area will be expanded from 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, thereby protecting the corals, seamounts and marine ecosystems unique to the south-central Pacific Ocean.

"We have a responsibility to make sure our kids and their families and the future has the same ocean to serve it in the same way as we have - not to be abused, but to preserve and utilize," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

"And we're talking about an area of ocean that's nearly twice the size of Texas, and that will be protected in perpetuity from commercial fishing and other resource-extraction activities, like deep-water mining."

The president has protected more federal land and sea by executive power than any other president in the last 50 years, The Washington Post reported.

Obama had announced a "more ambitious plan" back in June to further protect more marine areas. His administration chose the Monument because scientists identified large, protected marine reserves as the best way to rebuild biodiversity, support fish populations and improve overall ecosystem resilience, according to the press release.

And yet, despite these good intentions, some believe that the president's actions have fallen short of what he could have done, while others like Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) think Obama is overstepping his boundaries.

"He is using the Antiquities Act not to save or preserve anything, but as a political weapon before the election," Bishop told the Post.

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