Arrr, thanks Obama, ye scurvy sea lover!
September 26, 2014 9:01 AM   Subscribe

US Creates Largest Protected Area in the World. Over 3x larger than California, the Obama administration has enlarged the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Fishing, dumping, and removal of coral are now prohibited.
posted by blue_beetle (13 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks, Obama!
posted by Talez at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yay! I expect all the octopuses to scuttle over there once they pick up on this. The other sea creatures will take a bit longer to catch on, bless their little Brains hearts.
posted by misha at 9:40 AM on September 26, 2014

In the spirit of "rolling coal," I assume the next Red State craze will be randomly punching fish in the face.
posted by yoink at 10:07 AM on September 26, 2014 [20 favorites]

Sometimes little things can chip away at the sadness, I guess. Too little, too late for the ocean, but a nice gesture. I hope there's a commitment to enforcement.

Thanks for posting this. It really is important news.

posted by spitbull at 10:26 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Now this is the kind of propaganda I can get behind. Less of the Axis of Death stuff and more Save the Oceans, please.
posted by Wallace Shawn at 11:03 AM on September 26, 2014

Real life imitates The West Wing
posted by schmod at 12:42 PM on September 26, 2014

Maybe if we make people believe he created it with a drone strike we can get this thread up to 8 comments
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:17 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

In case anyone wants more details on the conservation biology that went into this project, here's a link to the full science report submitted to the US government in support of the decision.

Here's a bulleted list of the key conservation rationales behind the reserve, pasted from the report to give some biological context:
  • Large predatory fishes, such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, and oceanic sharks are still found in these waters, even though their populations have been significantly depleted in the past 50 years; an estimated 90% of all large predatory fish worldwide have been wiped out, although the exact status of commercially exploited populations in the Pacific varies. Protection would increase the area where these commercially important species can grow and produce more eggs per capita without being exposed to the “wall of hooks” – and hence help replenish their populations.
  • Five species of protected sea turtles also use these waters as migratory and feeding grounds, including the critically endangered leatherback turtle – which is near extinction because of human activities.
  • The proposed area is habitat for 22 species of protected marine mammals, including a new species recently described by scientists, the Palmyra beaked whale. Seven of these marine mammals are considered endangered.
  • Several million seabirds of 19 species congregate around or nest at the US Pacific Remote Islands. These seabirds forage in the waters surrounding the current Monument, out to 200 nautical miles and farther, feeding themselves and their chicks.
  • The deep sea on the area proposed as an expansion, virtually unexplored, is dotted with an estimated 241 undersea mountains and other unexplored geological features that are hotspots of ocean biodiversity. These undersea mountains (seamounts) each typically harbors thousands of species new to science, and large numbers of endemic species found nowhere else on the planet, just as archipelagos like the Galapagos and Hawaiian Islands do.
  • Protecting ocean ecosystems from multiple human impacts will help them to be more resilient from climate change providing refuges for endangered species to adapt to changes already underway.
One of the most interesting aspects is the importance of this particular spot in ensuring connectivity for migratory species. I hadn't realized that so many predatory fish and sea turtles were highly migratory, and these islands are a key location in their migration patterns. There's a great map on page 11 of the pdf showing the paths of tagged turtle movements through the Pacific that makes it clear how important this location is as a stepping stone in their migratory patterns.

This should also be really important for seabirds. Since food resources are so patchy in the oceans, birds will tend to end up in the patches where there are lots of fish, which is also where most of the fishing activity happens. It's not like a grassland where the resources might be slightly worse away from activity but there's still something available - food distribution is a much patchier process in the oceans and it can often be all-or-nothing. This dynamic of birds congregating near fisheries leads not only to reduced food stocks for birds, but also a lot of deleterious interactions with humans that affect their survival and nesting success (especially with respect to longline fishing for tuna and especially for certain threatened albatross species - birds get caught on the hooks and drown).

Finally, the deep seamount aspect is really neat. There's another great map on page 20 that shows the location of each seamount in the area - there are TONS of them! These habitats are rare and tend to host incredible numbers of species, and many of those species are very poorly understood or even completely unknown to science - of the estimated 14,000-100,000 seamounts on Earth, scientists have visited just 300 of them. Moreover, the variability of that estimate indicates that we basically don't know much about these formations, much less the biodiversity and ecosystem services associated with them. Seamounts, like above-ground islands, tend to have a lot of endemic species, and the relatively complex terrain allows a lot of niche differentiation and spatial resource partitioning that contribute to the maintenance and generation of biodiversity.

I hope there's a commitment to enforcement.

Aye, there's the rub...
posted by dialetheia at 1:25 PM on September 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Re the head: Barack ObARRRRma, surely?
posted by Jakob at 3:11 PM on September 26, 2014

This is pretty cool! I went snorkeling for the first time ever last week, and it was amazing. I recommend it to everyone.
posted by newdaddy at 4:48 PM on September 26, 2014

Good news everybody!

Oh, wait, it actually is good news! Ok, everybody go home now.

Seriously though, it's a good start. Work out the EPA enforcement issues and maybe things will be on the right track.
posted by formless at 5:41 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yay! I expect all the octopuses to scuttle over there once they pick up on this.
Pick up on it? Who do you think lobbied for it in the first place?
posted by Wolfdog at 11:39 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nice work! I'm pleased to see Obama doing something I can unequivocally get behind for a change.
posted by sotonohito at 12:23 PM on September 27, 2014

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