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Biden to expand Pacific marine sanctuary with his latest preservation push

This June 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows birds at Johnston Atoll within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Officials have evacuated scientists from remote Pacific islands near Hawaii as Hurricane Walaka approached, including seven researchers from French Frigate Shoals and four workers from Johnston Atoll. (Aaron Ochoa/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
Aaron Ochoa/AP
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
This June 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows birds at Johnston Atoll within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. (Aaron Ochoa/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)

The White House plans to designate 777,000 square miles of the Pacific as marine sanctuary.

On Tuesday, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a series of actions that seek to promote the preservation of several national land and water territories.

In addition to establishing two new U.S. national monuments on the continent, Biden said he has directed the secretary of commerce to consider reclassifying the water surrounding Pacific remote islands as a National Marine Sanctuary.

USFWS

The sanctuary would encompass several islands in the central Pacific southwest of Hawaiʻi — including Wake Atoll, Johnston Atoll and Palmyra Atoll.

About 500,000 square miles around these islands are currently protected as part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

If expanded, its total conservation area would be larger than the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which was established in 2006 by former President George W. Bush and widened in 2016 by former President Barack Obama.

Biden has set a goal of conserving at least 30% of ocean waters under U.S. jurisdiction by 2030.

Further strategies for conservation are outlined in the country’s first Ocean Climate Action Plan, which was released this month.

Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's "This Is Our Hawaiʻi" podcast. Contact her at sharrimanpote@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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