We recently reported that Barack Obama had sought to secure his environmental legacy by extending massively the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the Pacific Ocean reserve off his home state of Hawaii.
Now, three scientists have proposed to honour their president’s efforts in securing a future for the Pacific’s diverse marine species – by naming one of them after him.
On a deep-sea research dive in the Papahānaumokuākea reserve in June, Hawaii-based marine biologist Richard Pyle discovered a new species of fish. It is around 4.5 centimetres long and the male version has a distinctive pattern on its dorsal fin – which Pyle says reminds him of Obama’s “Hope” campaign logo.
“”It’s a very special fish because as far as we know, it is the only fish species, so far, that is endemic to the [Papahānaumokuākea Marine National] Monument,” Pyle, a scientist with Hawaii’s Bishop Museum, told the Huffington Post.
After Obama’s expansion of the monument, Pyle and fellow scientists Randall Kosaki and Brian Greene said they felt naming the fish in his honour was the obvious choice. “It just seemed like the perfect fit,” said Pyle.
On a visit to the Midway Atoll – a historic place in American military history for its role in the Pacific conflict in the Second World War – Obama was asked by conservationist Sylvia Earle on behalf of the scientists if he would give his blessing to the fish being named in his honour.
While the official Latin name can’t be revealed until it is finalised, it will contain “Obama” in one form or another, as the president himself confirmed in a video published by National Geographic. “Am I wrong here, or is there a familiar name in the middle of this?” he asks upon reading the name.
Pyle and his fellow biologists were ecstatic at the discovery. “This was a rare case of a true, bona-fide, brand-new discovery,” Pyle told the Huffington Post. “This is the real excitement of what we do, being able to find something that no one has ever seen before.”