President Obama is revealing a plan on Tuesday to protect a great area of the Pacific Ocean, a move that will help preserve marine species by preventing anyone from fishing and exploring the ground for oil.
Environmentalists will be thrilled that the President is taking a serious step to help protect our oceans. However, it’s anticipated that the initiative will face a great deal of criticism from Republicans and will have to be modified before it goes into effect.
“When the president is besieged by the problems as this administration has faced, it’s tough to keep your focus on ocean policy,” said former defense secretary Leon E. Panetta, who co-founded the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative while in Congress almost ten years ago. “That’s the problem — you just can’t afford to put oceans on the back burner.”
Clearly, the administration agrees since the proposal would expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, an area already designated as protected during the Bush administration, from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles. The protection would end tuna fishing in the area and protect almost two dozen species of marine mammals, five types of threatened sea turtles, and a variety of sharks and other predatory fish species.
The measure is led by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and White House counselor John D. Podesta as part of a “global campaign” to stop overfishing, pollution and ocean acidification.
“If this group can’t create a serious plan to protect the ocean for future generations, then who can and who will?” asked Kerry at an appearance at the State Department oceans conference. On Monday he argued the United States need to take bigger measures to protect the oceans.
Republicans disagree and argue that any measure to protect the oceans should go through congress first. Another group of opposers are tuna fishermen who work in the region. Up to 3 percent of the total U.S. tuna catch in the western and central Pacific in a year comes from that area.
The 1906 Antiquities Act is what allows the president to use his executive power to designate land and ocean areas as protected monuments. Pew Charitable Trusts Executive Vice President Joshua S. Reichert argues it is “one of the great equalizers in the ongoing struggle to preserve some of the best examples of America’s natural heritage. Without it, many of these places would long ago have succumbed to the pickax, the chain saw and the dredge, leaving us all poorer as a result.”
Over the summer the administration is counting on a comment period when all of those with an opinion on the matter can have their voices heard. After that, maybe with some changes made accordingly, the measure would go in effect later this year.
So far Obama has used his executive power 11 times to protect areas on land, which riled up Republicans greatly. This is his first time moving that authority into ocean territory, part of a bigger effort which includes allowing people to nominate new marine sanctuaries off U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes and developing a program to fight seafood fraud and the global black-market fish trade.
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