President Barack Obama on Friday quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, making it the largest protected area in the world.
The monument now spans 582,578 square miles —that's twice the size of Texas— near the Northern Hawaiian Islands and is home to 7,000 marine species. Many creatures in the area, including whales and sea turtles, are facing serious threats from climate change and intensive commercial fishing.
The Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced "Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah") monument is also home to the longest-living marine species in the world: black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years.
See inside the monument, including Kure Atoll and Midway Atoll:
Inside the world's largest marine reserve
Inside the world's largest marine reserve
Yellow tang reef fish swim off the coast of Hawaii October 15, 2006. U.S. First Lady Laura Bush on Friday dedicated the Hawaiian name "Papahanaumokuakea" to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument, home to more than seven thousand species of animals, including yellow tang reef fish like the ones shown, during her visit to Honolulu. Photo taken on October 15, 2006. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry (UNITED STATES)
A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii April 8, 2006. U.S. First Lady Laura Bush on Friday dedicated the Hawaiian name "Papahanaumokuakea" to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument, home to more than seven thousand species of animals, including turtles like the one shown, during her visit to Honolulu. Photo taken on April 8, 2006. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry (UNITED STATES)
Maritime archaeologist Dr. Kelly Gleason with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is shown with a ginger jar from the 19th-century shipwrecked whaling ship Two Brothers in this publicity photo released to Reuters February 11, 2011. Marine archaeologists in the Hawaiian islands have found the whaling vessel 600 miles from Honolulu, which sunk two years after its captain lost an earlier boat in a disaster that inspired the Herman Melville classic "Moby-Dick." REUTERS/Greg McFall/NOAA (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes (the tubenoses).
White terns, albatross and several other species of birds make Midway Atoll their home as it makes a perfect nesting location with its remote Pacific Ocean location. However, danger lurks beyond the beauty with plastic trash inadvertantly being consumed by nesting birds and ghost netting ensnaring endangered marine mammals. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A fledgling Laysan albatross is seen on the beach at Midway Atoll, June 4, 2012. REUTERS/Marco Garcia (UNITED STATES MINOR OUTLYING ISLANDS - Tags: ANIMALS)
Spinner dolphin ply the waters around at Midway Atoll where they feed in the shallows. Marine mammals are at times caught in ghost netting that is found in the area. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Washed up tree branch on beach, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, US Overseas Territory
United States, Hawaii, Midway Atoll, Eastern island, dolphin (Stenella longirostris)
Schooling Yellowfin Goatfish, Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Midway Atoll, USA.
The Laysan Albatross, Phoebastria immutabilis, is a large seabird that ranges across the North Pacific. This small (for its family) two-tone gull-like albatross is the second most common seabird in the Hawaiian Islands, with an estimated population of 2.5 million birds, and is currently expanding (or possibly re-expanding) its range to new islands.
Hawaiian green sea turtle,Chelonia mydas, resting on beach, and shadow of flying albatross,Phoebastria sp., Sand Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Midway Atoll, Vu fr beneath manta ray with wings spread, sunburst in blue water
Northwest Hawaiian Islands, Kure atoll, Stocky Hawkfish (Cirrhitus pinnulatus) in coral, poo-paa . [For use up to 13x20 only]
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
President George W. Bush established the original Papahānaumokuākea monument in 2006 to protect and preserve the marine wildlife and the area's historic, cultural and scientific features. The islands, described as "America's Galapagos," encompass the most intact tropical marine region under U.S. control.
Obama's action will ban commercial fishing, mineral extraction and other resource-depleting activities in the newly expanded area. Sustainable recreational fishing and Native Hawaiian cultural activities are still allowed in the protected zone by permit, as is scientific research. The area will serve as a "natural laboratory" where scientists can monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on the fragile marine ecosystems.
Obama will visit Midway Atoll, which lies within the marine monument, on Sept. 1 to draw attention to the threats the region faces from warming ocean temperatures, acidifying waters, sea level rise and other impacts of human-caused climate change. Midway is also the site of a decisive naval battle in World War II, and the area is filled with historically significant artifacts, such as shipwrecks and downed aircraft.