The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati has created the world’s largest marine reserve, spanning 164,200 square miles (roughly the size of California). In contrast, the islands comprising Kiribati itself total only about 313 square miles, or about four times the size of Washington, D.C. The new Phoenix Islands Protected Area is home to sea turtles, over 120 species of coral, 520 species of fish, and contains important sea-bird nesting sites. In creating the reserve, the impoverished nation will be giving up millions of dollars in foregone commercial fishing licenses every year, though Kiribati officials stressed that they hope to make up for some of the lost revenue via increased tourism. Officials have also been trolling for financial assistance from other nations. Russell Mittermeier of Conservation International said, “The creation of this amazing marine protected area by a small island nation represents a commitment of historic proportions.” The previous world’s largest marine protected area was the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands set aside by President Bush in 2006.
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