President Obama announced that Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, will expand from 139,818 square miles to 582,578 square miles. That’s bigger than the total land area of the state of Alaska — and makes Papahānaumokuākea larger than any other land or ocean conservation area on Earth.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument hosts an amazing array of wildlife, from 14 million seabirds representing 22 species that breed and nest within its boundaries, to over 7,000 species of marine life, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago.
The monument is also of great importance to Native Hawaiians, with significant cultural sites found in the original monument area on the islands of Mokumanamana and Nihoa. This expansion will help protect and sustain Hawaii’s marine life and cultural sites for future generations.
Originally designated in 2006, by then-President George W. Bush, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument previously protected the waters within 50 miles of the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In 2010, the monument was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO, making it the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States.
Now President Obama has expanded most of the monument out to 200 nautical miles within federal waters. The expanded area will provide additional protection for open ocean features including seamounts, submerged reefs and sunken islands. The monument will continue to be managed by NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife, and the State of Hawai’i, and will also include the Office of Hawaiian Affairs within the co-trusteeship.
Commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities, which are currently prohibited in the boundaries of the existing monument, are also prohibited within the expanded monument boundaries. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, is allowed in the expansion area by permit, as is scientific research.