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Clintons Announce 770,000 Square Miles Of Vital Ocean Protection

<p>Steve Montgomery / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/scuba04/8631001555/in/photolist-6aSGh9-firgXX-oK9jbw-7QDK8J-8jx6wm-7yVSr-e9G4AR-mPip7-8HurtT-e9G94D-e9NauJ-e9MSJ1-8zp8qh-e9Mg3J-3gj1V1-dh8ny3-7mMZuJ-dh8cTH-dh88GU-7cYZEG-dh7YQ8-dh86wG-aqjJoU-dh8bCp-7cV6tM-dh7ZXg-wjDHr-wjDpc-8uLqqn-wjDsX-dh8r9Q-9bgEYt-wjE1B-wjDkM-wjDWE-gwD3UD-9rDHBq-4Gj5tx-3rEy2-oQwidU-g5b4ki-dh8fBg-dh82mz-7cYXy5-dh8i3t-7cYXn1-6Geg5L-7cYYh3-6kSiiR-9rrmba">Flickr</a></p>

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton took to the podium on Monday to announce a major commitment to preserve huge portions of the ocean. The commitment, led by National Geographic in conjunction with several other organizations, promises to set aside 20 reserves in far-flung ocean areas over the next five years.

"Human impact on ocean health is undeniable," Clinton said at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. He also said that the oceans contribute more than $20 trillion to the global economy, adding that the ocean is the world's largest natural resource.

The effort will build on National Geographic's "Pristine Seas" campaign, which has already financed several scientific expeditions to remote ocean areas.

An emphasis on shifting local economies away from fishing and toward ecotourism will be included, as well as programs to raise awareness for ocean conservation.

Here are some of the areas destined for protection:

The Last Ice Area of Northern Greenland, where walruses thrive.

(USFWS / Flickr)

Patagonian Fjords in Chile, home to the iconic elephant seal.

(James Brandon / Flickr)

Outer atolls of the Seychelles, a hotbed of diversity.

(Olivier Cochard-Labbé / Flickr)

Clinton also announced a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative Ocean Action Network to be held in Boston in March 2015.

The announcement is a step toward a goal set out by the United Nations' target to protect 10 percent of the ocean by 2020. Right now, less than 2 percent of the ocean is protected.

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, told The Dodo that the announcement was a big step towards that goal.

"We know that everything is connected – the ocean and the atmosphere, the ocean and the rivers, stream sand coastlines," he said. "Only about 30% of marine organisms have been described by science. And what we know about them is that they are in trouble from human-caused problems: overuse through targeted taking and incidental take, from habitat destruction, climate change, ocean acidification, marine debris, run-offand pollution, to name a few. We must do more to protect marine animals and plants and their habitats."

David Becker contributed reporting to this story.