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Proposed National Monument Expansion Would Create Largest Marine Protected Area on Earth

On Monday, August 1st, and Tuesday, August 2nd, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are holding public meetings in Oahu and Kauai, Hawaii to receive comments on the proposed expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Masked boobies, on Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge | Lindsey Kramer/USFWS
Masked boobies on Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge | Lindsey Kramer/USFWS

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (MNM) protects an impressive 89.5 million acres of open waters, coral reefs, islands and atolls northwest of the Hawaiian archipelago. Established in 2006 by President George W. Bush and administered jointly by FWS, NOAA, and the State of Hawaii, Papahānaumokuākea encompasses two national wildlife refuges: Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Midway Atoll NWR.

Papahānaumokuākea is one of four MNMs in the Pacific established to conserve the unparalleled biodiversity found both under the sea and on the atolls and islands that dot this vast landscape. Coral reefs, some more than 5,000 years old, support countless species of fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals while remote island refuges within Papahānaumokuākea like Midway are home to the largest nesting colonies of Laysan and black-footed albatross, among millions of other seabirds like terns, boobies, noddies, petrels, and shearwaters.

The potential expansion of Papahānaumokuākea MNM follows a proposal submitted by Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz to President Obama requesting the extension of the Monument boundary by 200 nautical miles to match the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  The expansion would increase Papahānaumokuākea to a grand total of 373 million acres and create the largest marine protected area on planet Earth.

Expanding Papahānaumokuākea MNM would offer new protections for predatory fish species like tuna and swordfish that are in the midst of a steep population decline, while also benefitting monk seals, albatross, boobies, whales, coral reefs, and the innumerable fish species that make up the Pacific’s amazing biodiversity.

While Hawaii’s governor, native Hawaiian leaders, and the scientific community support the proposal, several state lawmakers and the tuna fishing industry oppose the expansion, arguing it would hamper one of Hawaii’s most important economic drivers.  To address these concerns, the proposed expansion would stop at 163 degree West Longitude (see map), in order to allow residents of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau continued access to their traditional and bountiful fishing grounds.

We strongly support the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to continue building on America’s conservation legacy in the Pacific by establishing the world’s largest marine protected area.

 

CLICK HERE to take action today and urge President Obama to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

To learn more about the biological importance of our Pacific Marine National Monuments in addition to the historical and cultural resources they safeguard, please read our Paradise Found report.

Click here to find the original Papahānaumokuākea expansion public meeting announcement.

Schools of reef fish at Rapture Reef, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument | James Watt/USFWS
Schools of reef fish at Rapture Reef, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument | James Watt/USFWS

 

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2016/08/proposed-national-monument-expansion-would-create-largest-marine-protected-area-on-earth/

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