Obama Just Created the Largest Marine Reserve in the World

It’s in Hawaii.

Around 583,000 square miles of ocean off Hawaii are now protected, President Barack Obama announced on Friday, expanding a national monument first established by former president George W. Bush in 2006.

Obama made the announcement—creating the largest marine reserve in the world—a day after the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary, having been founded by Congress on August 25, 1916. 

The area in Hawaii is home to a variety of endangered species, including Hawaiian monk seals, which don’t have ears and look like this: 

(Photo: Kent Backman/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Obama’s executive action, made possible by the U.S. Antiquities Act—signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt—means that commercial fishing is prohibited in the area, which mostly encompasses the smaller islands northwest of Hawaii’s bigger land masses. (The area protected by Bush included the waters around the state’s bigger islands; National Geographic has a handy map here showing as much.)

Obama also noted in his proclamation that the waters include untold amounts of wreckage from World War II, all with its own claims to historical importance. 

But, really, this is about the animals. Monk seals, we’re rooting for you.