Obama creating world's largest protected area off Hawaii coast

Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii_00030815
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Story highlights

  • The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will add 442,781 square miles
  • The monument was first created by President George W. Bush a decade ago

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama is expanding a national monument off the coast of his native Hawaii, establishing the largest protected marine sanctuary in the world, the White House announced Friday.

Obama's expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will more than quadruple its existing size, protecting reefs, marine life habitats and other resources. The expansion will add 442,781 square miles to the monument, making it now a total of 582,578 square miles.
The monument was first created by President George W. Bush a decade ago and has been recognized globally by UNESCO. New wildlife has been discovered there since then and the expansion is expected to protect 7,000 marine animals, including whales and sea turtles classified as endangered species.
    The area will also be studied for the impacts of ocean acidification, caused by climate change, according to the White House.
    The area, between coasts of Hawaii's northwest islands and the Midway Atoll, is also considered a critical region in the establishment of Native Hawaiian cultures and the site of long-distance voyaging, recreating the long boat trips that led to the settling of that Pacific region.