By Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress:
“WCS applauds President Obama for bringing attention to climate change’s immediate effects on Pacific Island nations and for his expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawai’i, making it the largest protected area in the world.
“This vast expanse of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument supports biodiverse reef ecosystems that are home to more than 7,000 marine species, including many species of marine mammals, fish, coral and birds. It is also key habitat for the threatened green sea turtle, and the endangered leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles.
“WCS is engaged in a global effort to support the expansion of marine protected areas around the world, particularly in priority areas for coral reefs. Marine protected areas like Papahānaumokuākea will become increasingly crucial as we confront the challenges associated with global climate change. They are one tool that helps restore our ocean’s fisheries, protect habitats, and conserve a wide range of marine biodiversity.
“The President’s remarks on rising temperatures and sea levels impacting Pacific Islands was an important message for all to hear. Climate change is not a threat in the far off future but a threat now as communities, like those in Fiji, are forced to escape high seas.
“President Obama and his administration have throughout his two terms demonstrated commitment to conserving wildlife and wild places. As we arrive in Honolulu for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, we say ‘mahalo.’”
This statement is based on a news release by WCS.