IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Obama to dramatically expand protected ocean areas

The president announced a series of new measures to protect aquatic life and coastal communities at a State Department conference on Tuesday.
The Palmyra Atoll
The Palmyra Atoll, a tiny National Wildlife Refuge 960 miles south of Honolulu is one of the territories receiving attention in President Obama's new environmental policies.

President Obama on Tuesday vowed to expand environmental protections related to ocean life and coastal communities in yet another use of his executive authority to mitigate climate change.

"We've already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations," he said in a video broadcasted at the State Department's Our Ocean conference on Tuesday. "So let's redouble our efforts. Let's make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world."

The new policies suggested by the president include an expansion of protected areas in the Pacific Ocean and the allocation of $102 million to protecting coastal communities against climate change. The proposal to guard more ocean area from drilling, fishing and similar activities would "double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected," according to The Washington Post.

This is the second time in three weeks that the Obama administration has proposed sweeping new executive policies related to the environment. At the beginning of this month, the EPA announced its intention to seek a 30% reduction in U.S. power plant emissions by the year 2030. Both the emissions target and the new ocean life protections will undergo a period of public comment before implementation.

The president's remarks were broadcasted by video as part of a two-day conference on the ocean and climate change, hosted by the U.S. State Department. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been vocal about his own department's intentions to combat global warming, kicked off the conference on Monday with a speech emphasizing his "commitment to protecting the ocean."

"It’s a vital security issue involving the movement of people, the livelihood of people, the capacity of people to exist and live where they live today," said Kerry. "The ocean today supports the livelihoods of up to 12 percent of the world’s population. But it is also essential to maintaining the environment in which we all live. It’s responsible for recycling things like water, carbon, nutrients throughout our planet, throughout the ecosystem – 'system' is an important word – so that we have air to breathe, water to drink. And it is home to literally millions of species."

Following the video of the president's remarks, actor Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the conference and announced that his foundation would spend $7 million over the next two years on efforts to "save the ocean." Celebrity science educator and climate change activist Bill Nye was also on hand to conduct a Twitter Q&A with Kerry under the hashtag #OceanChat.