The move is one of the few ways in which the president can create new environmental protections without action from Congress. He has also used his executive authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate 11 new national monuments on land, ensuring that millions of acres of wilderness will remain untouched.It will be a massive expansion:
“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned early to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean,” Mr. Obama said at a White House event on Tuesday. “And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as president to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains and rivers and forests.”
Obama’s proposal for the central Pacific will increase the size of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by almost a factor of 10, from 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles. The national monument, established by President George W. Bush in 2008, currently applies to ocean surrounding small, unpopulated U.S. territories in the south Pacific. The Washington Post points out that the area to be protected accounts for only 1 to 3 percent of the U.S. tuna catch in the region, but industry groups may still object to the proposed fishing ban.