Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

When you think of Hawaii, what comes to mind? Is it the nature: beautiful land and ocean ecosystems that compose the state? Is it the history, native Hawaiian culture? Or is it the wildlife: diverse seabirds, fish, and coral? Each of these features that make Hawaii like no other place on Earth are exhibited throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Beach and Wildlife
Mark Sullivan, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

In April 2006, President George W. Bush and his wife viewed Voyage to Kure, a documentary exploring one of the last pristine coral reefs in the Pacific around these islands. Inspired by the film, President Bush used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate the surrounding waters as a marine national ,onument. The following year, the proclamation was amended for the monument’s name to become Papahanaumokuakea, derived from ancient Hawaiian tradition: the union of “Papahanaukoa,” the mother figure personified by the Earth, and “Wakea,” the father figure personified by the sky. The Obama Administration successfully expanded the monument from 89 million to 373 million acres, now encompassing a total of ten islands and atolls, making it the world’s largest protected area. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono said the monument’s expansion “preserves biodiversity and honors cultural traditions” and Senator Brian Schatz stated the expansion “gives a greater voice to Native Hawaiians in managing this resource.” Papahanaumokuakea is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs representing Native Hawaiian interests.

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument protects endangered land and sea birds, plant species, and over 7,000 marine species on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. These include the endangered hawksbill sea turtle, the threatened green sea turtle, and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. The FWS’ effective conservation efforts are particularly present on the two national wildlife refuges within the monument: Hawaiian Islands and Midway Atoll.

Hawaiian Islands Seabird
FWS Website, Hawaiian Islands

Hawaiian Islands contains over 250,000 acres of coral reefs. Along with their incredible beauty, coral enable diverse fish species to grow and thrive. This contributes to higher fishing yields in surrounding areas, supporting the Hawaiian people and marine economy. On the islands, the FWS fulfills its responsibility to maintain well-being of native birds in the monument by providing a safe haven for millions of seabirds to breed, nest, and rear their young.

Midway Atoll hosts the world’s largest populations of Laysan albatross and black-footed albatross, and has been responsible for restoring the Laysan duck population. Midway also has immense scientific potential for studying the effect of colder waters on the growth, development, and ecology of coral reefs. The Battle of Midway, the turning point of World War II in the Pacific, took place on the Atoll. As a result, UNESCO inscribed the area as our nation’s first mixed (Natural and Cultural) World Heritage Site. Thanks to the leadership of the FWS, a historic preservation plan of Midway Atoll is underway.

Midway Atoll Seascape
Tandem Stills + Motion, Midway Atoll

Despite the spectacular value the monument provides people and wildlife, President Trump has instructed Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to review the monument’s designation and expansion to determine if it should be downsized or eliminated. Any attempt to undermine the conservation efforts on Papahanaumokuakea is an attack on monuments across the country. We will not stand for such injustice, and neither should you.

Tell Secretary Zinke that you stand with Papahanaumokuakea and each of our nation’s treasured marine monuments!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2017/06/papahanaumokuakea-marine-national-monument/


  1. Carrie Carpenter says:

    Please don’t destroy these monuments and the animals they protect!!!!

  2. Tara says:

    Agreed @Carrie Carpenter. It is such a mess now, how do we come back from this? Poor creatures big and small 🙁

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