Obama designates first US Atlantic marine monument

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Washington, Sep 16 (IANS) US President Barack Obama on Thursday designated the country’s first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean that aims to protect fragile deep-sea ecosystems off the coast of New England.

Obama made this announcement at the third annual Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, a meeting that focuses on issues related to marine-protected areas, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts on the ocean, Xinhua reported.

The new marine preserve, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, will protect 12,725 square km of ecosystems encompassing three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four underwater mountains.

It will provide habitat for protected species such as sea turtles and marine mammals, including endangered sperm, fin, and sei whales and Kemp’s ridley turtles, the White House said in a background statement.

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Thursday’s designation followed Obama’s decision last month to expand the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by 1.1 million square km, creating the world’s largest marine protected area.

“These actions reflect President Obama’s commitment to the goals of combatting climate change and protecting our ocean, in a way that respects local communities, economies and native practices,” the White House statement said.

The White House said that more than 20 countries attending the annual ocean conservation meeting will announce the creation of 40 significant new marine protected areas, totalling nearly 1.2 million square km of ocean.

When combined with the Papahanaumokuakea expansion, the nations of the world have protected more than 900,000 square miles of ocean in 2016, exceeding last year’s record of more than 1.9 million square km, it added.

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