2016:Year of the Marine Park

In 2016, the world became serious about protecting oceans by establishing some of the largest marine protected areas ever.

Malaysia, for example, established its largest marine park — the Tun Mustapha Park — off Sabah Province in Borneo, after 13 years of negotiations. At nearly 1 million hectares, the Tun Mustapha Park includes more than 50 islands and islets spread across Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts.

In September, U.S. President Obama announced the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the first of its kind in the Atlantic Ocean. Located 130 miles off the coast of New England in northeastern U.S., the marine park is slated to protect 4,913 square miles of the ocean. A month prior to this, Obama had announced the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles, creating the largest marine reserve off Hawaii.

In a rare step forward, 24 countries and the European Union unanimously agreed to create the world’s largest marine protected area off Antarctica. The new reserve is expected to come into force in December 2017 and will set out to protect some 1.55 million square kilometers (~600,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea around Antarctica.

Mexico, too, announced the creation of its largest marine reserve ever — the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, estimated to cover more than 5.7 million hectares.

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