WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- On Monday, President Obama issued a video message to attendees of the "Our Ocean" conference in Chile, announcing U.S. plans for two new marine sanctuaries.
The designation will safeguard tidal waters in Maryland and a portion of Lake Michigan along Wisconsin's coastline.
"These actions will protect waters of historic and national importance," the president said in the video address. "And in the coming months, I will look for opportunities to protect even more of our waters."
Conservationists and policy leaders are currently convened in Valparaiso, Chile, to discuss the deteriorating health of the ocean and its species. Among the topics to be discussed are the growing problems of over fishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.
Recent studies have highlighted the losses of biological diversity in the world's oceans. And researchers continue to warn policy makers of the economic and biological costs of warmer, more acidic oceans.
The United States is committed to working with our international partners to protect our oceans and protect our planet," Obama said. "Because I refuse to leave our children a planet that's beyond their capacity to repair."
In a press release accompanying the video, the White House said the president is also working on new plans to combat illegal fishing.
The new sanctuary in Maryland will comprise a 14-square mile area of the tidal Potomac River known as Mallows Bay. It's home to some 200 shipwrecks, may of them historic. It's also an area key to a variety of rare and endangered marine species.
The 875-square mile portion of Wisconsin's Lake Michigan -- extending from Port Washington to Two Rivers -- is also home to a few dozen historic shipwrecks.
Last year, Obama announced plans to expand the waters protected as part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument -- first created by President George W. Bush -- from some 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles.
But Monday's announcement marks the first new marine sanctuaries in 15 years.
In a separate announcement, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet shared his plans to create the Nazca-Desventuradas marine park, which will set aside nearly 115,000 square miles of water surrounding the San Ambrosio and San Felix islands. It will be the largest marine sanctuary in the Americas.