President Barack Obama is more than quadrupling the size of Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the White House announced Friday, effectively creating the largest marine protected area on the planet.
Papahānaumokuākea, located off the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, is home to 7,000 of some of the world’s most precious species, a quarter of which are completely native to the Hawaiian Islands alone. Its waters have been described as “nearly pristine” for their bounty of marine life. Deep reefs off the Kure Atoll, for one, have more endemic species than any other marine ecosystem on Earth, biologists have found. Papahānaumokuākea also houses one of the last predator-dominated reefs left on the planet. As many as 90 percent of the world’s predatory fish such as sharks and groupers have been lost to overfishing.
Obama’s expansion increases the marine sanctuary by about 442,000 square miles, to register at more than 582,000 square miles. He has protected over 256 million acres of land and water throughout his presidency so far — more than any other administration in history.*
*UPDATE — January 19, 2017: This article has been updated.