President Barack Obama this week announced new marine sanctuaries in Lake Michigan and the Potomac River in Maryland. Obama made his announcement at a marine sanctuaries conference in Chile where Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced Chile will render more than 200,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean near Easter Island off-limits from commercial fishing and oil and gas exploration. According to Bachelet, the new ocean zoning, which will be the third-largest in the world, will protect ancestral species off Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island.
Obama’s announcement marks the latest in a series of recent actions forbidding commercial fishing and natural resource production in designated marine areas. The Obama administration has also announced a new global initiative to address overfishing, unregulated activity, and illegal fishing operations.
“Our economies, our livelihoods and our food all depend on our oceans,” said President Obama, “and yet we know that our actions are changing them. … Marine pollution harms fish and wildlife, affecting the entire food chain. Illegal fishing depletes the world’s fisheries.”
The new protected waters in the United States cover 875 square miles of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan, and 14 square miles in the Mallows-Bay Potomac River in Maryland. The 39 known shipwrecks in Lake Michigan and the remains of nearly 200 ships in Mallows Bay provide habitat for many species of fish and other wildlife.
Tiffany Taylor ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.