The virgin swath of sea, islands, and sea mounts is home to deep-sea coral, several species of endangered sea turtle, manta rays, and other imperiled species, but is vulnerable to illegal fishing operations as well as other disturbances. “The president acted expeditiously, while the area is still largely pristine and undisturbed,” Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Associated Press.
Obama announced plans to expand PRIMNM this June, stating he would use his “authority as president to protect some of our nation’s most pristine marine monuments, just like we do on land.” That initial plan would have expanded the area to 586,400 square miles. But after a public comment period that gathered opinions from conservationists, researchers, fishing and cannery groups, the measure stalled in Congress, along with several other conservation initiatives. So Obama bypassed Congress by using the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was designed to give presidents the authority to issue executive orders to protect public land.