President Barack Obama should move swiftly to expand Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument using the same presidential powers that Teddy Roosevelt employed to create the Grand Canyon and that President George W. Bush used to create Papahanaumokuakea in the first place.

Caleb McMahan’s opinion that expanding the monument would set a dangerous precedent is ridiculous.

In fact, Obama’s action would follow in the footsteps of almost every president since the passage of Antiquities Act in 1906, a law passed by Congress authorizing the president to create national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features for the benefit of all Americans — now and into the future.

Honu such as this would benefit from the monument expansion, the writer argues.
Honu such as this would benefit from the monument expansion, as would more than 40 other endangered or threatened species, the writer argues. Pixabay

The Papahanaumokuakea expansion proposed by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and supported by native Hawaiian groups, scientists and millions of Americans would enlarge the monument to better protect the whales, dolphins and the amazing marine biodiversity in the crystal blue waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.

Humpback whales and dolphins, the endangered “honu” and other sea turtles and the Hawaiian monk seal are just a few of the more than 40 other imperiled species currently listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and/or international endangered species lists that will benefit by expanding the monument out to 200 nautical miles.

This would make the monument the world’s largest protected area. This expansion would protect the rich biodiversity of marine life, including more than 7,000 other marine species, from the beautiful and tiny regal parrotfish to the Hawaiian black grouper. Twenty-five percent of the wildlife in the monument are found nowhere else on Earth.

The only group mounting opposition to the expansion are a small but powerful handful of industrial longline fishermen interested in short-term profits.

Local Hawaiian groups support the expansion because protecting the sea is part of their rich cultural heritage. It will pay dividends for small scale local Hawaiian fishers in perpetuity, according to mounting evidence of the importance of marine protected areas as sanctuaries where fish can grow and reproduce. When we help them do that, they can begin to reverse years of overfishing that have devastated fish populations both inside and beyond the borders of the protection zone.

The proposed expansion specifically addresses the needs of small-scale local fishers, allowing for continued fishing in active spots such as around Kauai and Niihau. This inclusion has created broad local support and encouraged Rep. Angus McKelvey to support the expansion.

Of course, Hawaii’s tourism industry is dependent on healthy oceans that create recreational activities like snorkeling and whale watching, and that provide tourists with abundant seafood.

In fact, the only group mounting opposition to the expansion are a small but powerful handful of industrial longline fishermen interested in short-term profits. This same group has consistently opposed better protections for whales and sea turtles, which also fall victim to the millions of baited hooks longliners set each year, forcing environmentalists into prolonged court battles to protect these endangered species.

Expanding Papahanaumokuakea will create the world’s largest marine protected area, leading us a bit closer to the 30 percent marine area protection goal scientists say we must reach if want healthy oceans that provide food, oxygen, sequester carbon and sustain all life.

Right now, our world’s oceans are largely unprotected with only 2 percent set aside with strong protections. The U.S. and other nations should do more to protect our oceans and the valuable the ecosystem services that it provides us.

Recent history suggests the creation of Papahanaumokuakea in 2006 had important international reverberations resulting in additional designations of more than a dozen large-scale marine parks around the world shortly thereafter. Its expansion now may again inspire and encourage other nations to take similar steps.

Speak up for the whales, dolphins, sea turtles and future generation of ocean lovers. Please weigh in by letting President Obama know you support the expansion of Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Future generations will praise you, and it’s easy: Just visit

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