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Washington (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama will create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the Pacific Ocean in a bid to protect sea life from climate change, the White House said.

Obama will Thursday sign a proclamation designating the marine reserve in the south-central Pacific, thereby making it off-limits to development and commercial fishing, a statement said.

“The administration identified expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument as an area of particular interest because science has shown that large marine protected areas can help rebuild biodiversity, support fish populations, and improve overall ecosystem resilience,” the White House statement said.

Such areas are under threat from climate change because carbon pollution is causing the oceans to acidify, which can damage marine life including corals and harm ocean ecosystems, the statement added.

The proclamation will expand the reserve to six times its current size, resulting in 490,000 square miles of protected area.

Obama is using his executive powers to make the designation, bypassing the U.S. legislature. He ordered his administration in June to chart a way to expand the existing sea reserve.

The White House said the move would protect many animals including those with long migratory ranges such as sea turtles, marine mammals and manta rays.

The area “is also home to millions of seabirds that forage over hundreds of miles and bring food back to their rookeries on the islands and atolls,” the statement said.

Recreational and traditional fishing will still be allowed.

Obama is able to designate the marine reserve using the country’s Antiquities Act, which has been used by 16 presidents since 1906 to protect natural and historic features in America, the White House said.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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