Obama to Create World’s Largest Marine Reserve in Hawaii
Citing the danger that climate change poses to the oceans, President Obama will establish the largest marine reserve in the world today, protecting nearly 600,000 square miles off the coast of Hawaii.
Commercial fishing, mining and extraction are prohibited in the expanded Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, though subsistence fishing and scientific research will be allowed.
"The oceans are the untold story when it comes to climate change and we have to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the ocean that sustains us," said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. George W. Bush originally established the reserve a decade ago, protecting 140,000 square miles.
Reef Fish at Rapture Reef
Schools of reef fish at Rapture Reef, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Photo credit: James Watt / USFWS
Green Sea Turtles
More than 90 percent of the world's population of Green Sea Turtles, also known as honu in Hawaiian, nests at the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. To many Hawaiian people, the green sea turtle is ingrained in their identify and cultural heritage. Despite a decline in population in the 1960s, green sea turtles are making a comeback!
Photo credit: Kydd Pollock / USFWS. Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Hawaiian Monk Seals
The adorable Hawaiian monk seal is actually one of the most endangered seals in the world. Only 1,100 seals remain on the planet and 90 percent of them live around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Threats include entanglement, lack of food sources and climate change.
Photo credit: Andy Collins / NOAA. Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Albatrosses are the largest flying birds on the planet, extremely efficient at flying, and spend over 80% of the time at sea unless they are breeding. During breeding season, males and females form a mating pair that lasts a lifetime. Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross, is the world's oldest known breeding bird in the wild and lives on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Wisdom, at the young age of 65 years old, returns to Midway every year to Midway to lay her eggs on the largest nesting albatross colony in the world.
Photo credit: Greg Joder. Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
The endangered Laysan duck is endemic to Laysan Island and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately in 1993, there was an alarming decline in the population due to severe weather that introduced insects, which depleted food sources for these ducks. Historically, Laysan ducks were found widespread throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Thanks to the great work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, research and conservation management efforts such as translocations are on-going to increase the population of Laysan ducks throughout the Hawaiian islands.
Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
More than 24 species of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises have been identified in the Hawaiian Islands. Weighing in at 35-4 tons and 50 to 60 feet long, sperm whales are the most abundant. As the star of the famous novel, Moby Dick, sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and have the largest brain of any living animal. The expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument would increase and enhance protection of these species graceful animals.
Photo credit: Gerard Sovry. Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Oceanic White-Tip Shark
Oceanic white-tip sharks are the kings of the open ocean. Their noticeably long pectoral fins give these sharks its proper Latin name longimanus meaning "long arms." These apex predators are migratory, following the warmer climates in the winter months to catch prey. The famous oceanographer, Jacque Cousteau, called oceanic white tips "the most dangerous sharks in the ocean" and they rely on the Hawaiian islands for food.
Photo credit: Joe Romeiro. Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Big Eye Tuna
Big Eye Tuna, also known as ahi, is a highly desired commercial species caught in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The population of big eye tuna has declined due to overharvesting. Expanding the monument will allow the eco-system to thrive, ensure that tuna reach sexual maturity and the protect tuna from overfishing.
Photo credit: ISSF 2012. Caption courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
"President Obama's expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National makes it the largest sanctuary for ocean life in the world," Greenpeace oceans campaign director John Hocevar said.
"This is a bold decision that will have lasting benefits for Hawaii's unique ecosystem. Networks of sanctuaries have proven to be powerful tools to ensure the health of our oceans. Setting aside areas closed to fishing, drilling and other extractive uses is the best way to protect biodiversity, rebuild depleted fish populations, and increase the resilience of marine ecosystems so they can better withstand the impacts of climate change.
"Bolder steps are still needed. Less than two percent of the world's oceans are protected from fishing, and many scientists suggest a target of 40 percent. It is vital that we take steps like President Obama did in Hawaii to prevent future expansion of industrial fisheries, but we also need to look at areas closer to our population centers. Most of the world's coastal fisheries have been severely depleted. With few limitations on fishing in these areas, recovery is slow. Our coasts are dotted with former fishing communities that are no longer able to find enough fish to sustain their livelihoods.
"Setting aside 40 percent of our marine ecosystems—in remote areas as well as those closer to home—will help preserve the health of our oceans and our communities."
For a deeper dive:
By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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