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Reports: Obama To Propose Creation Of World's Largest Ocean Sanctuary

NPR icon by Eyder Peralta
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Jim Maragos

President Obama is preparing a proposal that would create the world's largest ocean sanctuary south and west of Hawaii, The Washington Post and the Associated Press are reporting.

According to the outlets, Obama will expand a sanctuary created by George W. Bush. Under the proposal, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument would go from 87,000 square miles of protected ocean to 782,000 square miles of ocean that surround seven islands and "atolls controlled by the United States," the Post reports.

The paper adds:

"Obama has faced criticism from a variety of groups — including cattle ranchers, law enforcement officers and ATV enthusiasts — over his expansion of protections for federal lands. The ocean area under consideration, by contrast, encompasses uninhabited islands in a remote region with sparse economic activity.

"Even so, the designation is expected to face objections from the U.S. tuna fleet that operates in the region. Fish caught in the area account for up to 3 percent of the annual U.S. tuna catch in the western and central Pacific, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. When Bush created the monument in 2009, he exempted sport fishing to address industry opposition.

"[White House adviser John D.] Podesta said a public comment period over the summer will allow the Commerce and Interior departments to 'fully understand the commercial activity out there' and modify the plan if necessary."

The AP adds that the proposed designation will likely be met with criticism from Republicans, "who say Obama is exceeding his authority by going around Congress to promote his agenda on issues like the environment, immigration and gay rights."

The AP goes on: "Earlier this month Obama unveiled sweeping new pollution limits on U.S. power plants amid signs that Congress wouldn't act soon to combat the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming."

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