© Getty Images / E+ / fototrav

20,000 promises under the sea

On 17 June 2014 at an international conference for the protection of the oceans, the United States announced they were establishing the largest marine sanctuary in the world.

More than 1.2 million square kilometers - the intended area of a tropical marine sanctuary and among the most pristine places in the world. For "pristine" read "protected from environmental damage caused by man." An aptly named sanctuary since it has received international support.

Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, ‘Yes, we did our part. We took action and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world.’ – B. Obama

Treasure islands

To start with there was the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument - a set of remote, uninhabited and unincorporated islands managed by the United States Department of the Interior. Corals, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, birds, insects... Many of the innumerable species in this region of the world live nowhere else. In other words it enjoys unparalleled biodiversity. Except that scientists from all over the world agree that over the last 70 years the health of our oceans, which cover 72% of our planet, has deteriorated dramatically. Ardent conservationist and avid diver, the actor Leonardo DiCaprio spoke at the Our Ocean Conference in Washington: "What had once looked like an endless underwater utopia is now riddled with bleached coral reefs and massive dead zones". The US President needed no further encouragement to make him decide to apply the 1906 Act empowering him to protect zones of historical or scientific importance in national territories or areas under US control. A decision as historic as it is necessary joined by no less than 80 other nations. More than 1.8 billion in pledges were collected.

Big problems need big solutions

Apart from the rising sea levels that threaten many areas, global warming is causing an increase in both ocean temperatures and acidification due to CO2 - which could seriously affect coral reefs and force some species to migrate if they haven’t already been wiped out... Overfishing threatens not only marine life but also the people who depend on it for their food and economic growth.
Finally, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument should be protected not only from commercial fishing, but also from any resources being extracted, including underwater mining. Only traditional and "recreational" fishing will still be permitted.

For more information:

- Obama’s video message during the Our Ocean Conference
- Leonardo DiCaprio’s speech


Main picture: © Getty Images / E+ / fototrav

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