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Obama declares new marine reserve at Oceans summit

By AFP

Added 15th September 2016 06:01 PM

Obama was to address the first day of the Our Oceans meeting, where ministers and envoys from some 90 countries will meet with environmental experts and activists.

Obama declares new marine reserve at Oceans summit

US President Barack Obama. Photo/AFP

Obama was to address the first day of the Our Oceans meeting, where ministers and envoys from some 90 countries will meet with environmental experts and activists.

US President Barack Obama was to announce the creation of a new marine reserve on Thursday as Washington hosted a major world summit on protecting the planet's oceans.

Obama was to address the first day of the Our Oceans meeting, where ministers and envoys from some 90 countries will meet with environmental experts and activists.

Building on two previous annual meetings, delegates will unveil measures to protect the marine environment from pollution, over fishing and the effects of climate change.

And delegates were to hear Obama's announcement of the 4,913-square-mile (12,725-square-kilometer) Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

This is an area off the Atlantic coast of New England with three deep undersea canyons and five submerged mountains, home to rare deep sea coral and whales.

Commercial fishing will be restricted in the area, where scientists have warned that warming ocean temperatures are a threat to stocks of salmon, lobster and scallops.

"Over the past several decades, the nation has made great strides in its stewardship of the ocean," Obama said in a presidential declaration.

"But the ocean faces new threats from varied uses, climate change, and related impacts," he said, citing the results of recent scientific studies of the canyon area.

The new national monument follows Obama's recent expansion of the huge Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii, and 20 more countries are to declare new reserves.

Britain was one of the first to show its hand, announcing a plan to double the area of protected ocean around its far-flung overseas territories.

Fully protected marine reserves are to be set up around the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific and St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension in the South Atlantic.

The plans impose a permanent ban on commercial fishing in an additional one million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) of ocean, according to the Foreign Office.

Meanwhile, the Global Environment Facility, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Blue Moon Fund and the Waitt Foundation announced $48 million to help developing countries create and expand tropical marine reserves.

Delegates hope that by 2020 10 percent of the world's oceans will become protected reserves, with fishing and oil exploration banned or tightly restricted.

And movie star Leonardo DiCaprio was to unveil a new crowd-sourced technology, Global Fishing Watch, to help concerned people track illegal fishing by satellite.

Ocean protection

The summit was opened by Kerry, who himself hails from New England and has made ocean protection a priority during his three years in office that he hopes his successors will continue.

"During our gatherings in 2014 and 2015, nations from across the world committed to designate over six million square kilometers of ocean as marine protected areas," Kerry said.

"We will build on those achievements by announcing over 120 significant ocean conservation projects, including almost $2 billion in new pledges and commitments to protect more than two million square kilometers in new or expanded marine protected areas."

US Under Secretary of State Catherine Novelli told reporters 90 countries would be represented along with NGOs and the private sector.

In addition to new marine reserves, the delegates will discuss scientific advances in monitoring pollution and fishing and funding for clean-up measures and protection.

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