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U.S. President Joe Biden has announced plans to create a new national marine sanctuary designation to protect all U.S. waters around the Pacific Remote Islands.

If completed, the new sanctuary would help ensure the U.S. reaches Biden’s goal of protecting 30% of oceans within the U.S.’s reach.

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Protection for territory south-west of Hawaii

The proposed protected area “is larger than Alaska and Colorado put together and three times the size of Texas,” Biden said, announcing the initiative on Tuesday 21 March.

“That’s no small amount of land and would make it the largest ocean area on the planet with the highest level of protection,” Biden added.

The Pacific Remote Islands Coalition nominated a 770,000 square-mile area for sanctuary designation. The Pacific Remote Islands encompass seven islands, atolls, and a reef unit: Baker, Howland, Jarvis, Johnston, Wake, Palmyra, and Kingman.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. territory area marks some of the most pristine coral reef in the Pacific Ocean, including “165 known seamounts that are hot spots of species abundance and diversity”.

Securing “blue carbon” is one of the objectives

The area’s ecosystem, the Biden Administration notes, is “vital to slowing the costly effects of climate change”, noting that healthy oceans and their plant and animal life provide major absorption of the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.

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“Such protections would encompass areas unaddressed by previous administrations so all areas of U.S. jurisdiction around the islands, atolls, and reef of the Pacific Remote Islands will be protected,” the Administration said in a statement.

The new Pacific marine protected area is part of a raft of ocean-related measures introduced by the Biden administration. Last week Biden also announced the U.S. Ocean Action Plan, focused on increasing ocean-based renewable energy through offshore windfarms and marine energy technology, conserving “blue carbon” marine habitats, and expanding marine protected areas.

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