Obama’s moving closer to creating the world’s largest marine reserve — in Hawaii

By:  Juliet Eilperin

President Obama may have chosen to locate his library in his adopted home state of Illinois, but a new move by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) suggests he may leave his biggest environmental footprint in his home state of Hawaii.

Schatz sent a letter Thursday to the president asking him to consider expanding the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument, which President George W. Bush created a decade ago, to more than four times its current size of 139,800 square miles. The area, which surrounds the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, is home to 7,000 marine and terrestrial species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on earth.

Under Schatz’s proposal the monument would increase to 582,578 square miles, making it the largest area of protected land or sea on earth. When Bush created it on June 15, 2006, it represented the world’s largest marine reserve, but it now ranks as the 10th biggest.

The senator, who has emerged as a key broker between Hawaiian fishing and other local interests and the federal government, has included a carve-out in his proposal so recreational and subsistence fishing operators from Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau can continue to use certain areas that are outside the monument’s current boundaries.  An active fishing spot around the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather buoy 51101 would remain open, though all the areas within the expanded monument would be closed to fishing or other forms of exploitation such as deep-sea mining.