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President Obama setting aside massive Pacific Ocean preserve

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POSTED June 17, 2014 7:38 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vowing to protect fragile marine life, President Barack Obama acted Tuesday to create the world’s largest ocean preserve by expanding a national monument his predecessor established in waters thousands of miles from the American mainland.

The designation for a remote stretch of the Pacific Ocean marks a major symbolic victory for environmentalists, who have urged the president to take action on his own to protect the planet as Congress turns its focus elsewhere. But the initiative will have limited practical implications because little fishing or drilling are taking place even without the new protections.

Protecting the world’s oceans and the vibrant ecosystems that thrive deep under the surface is a task that’s bigger than any one country but the U.S. must take the lead, Obama said, announcing the initiative during an ocean conservation conference.

“Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world,” Obama said in a video message.

Obama hasn’t settled on the final boundaries for the expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and will solicit input from fishermen, scientists and conservation experts. Obama’s senior counselor, John Podesta, said that process would start immediately and wrap up “in the very near future.”

President George W. Bush, a Republican, created the monument in 2009 by setting aside waters that encircle an array of remote islands in the south-central Pacific, between Hawaii and American Samoa.

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