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Preparations underway to designate parts of Papahānaumokuākea as a national marine sanctuary

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working on designating oceanic areas of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a national marine sanctuary.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are currently designated as a coral reef ecosystem reserve and marine national monument. The additional designation would give officials the ability to manage and monitor oceanic areas in the monument’s boundary.

“Papahānaumokuākea’s ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from threats such as marine debris, invasive species, and climate change,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA Administrator.

Waves crash on the shores of Midway Atoll in the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument.
Ronen Zilberman
Waves crash on the shores of Midway Atoll in the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument.

The plan hopes to help endangered Hawaiian monk seals, threatened green turtles, and coral reefs.

Papahānaumokuākea also has cultural importance to Native Hawaiians. Many Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners travel to the area to reconnect with ancestors and gods to this day.

NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Hawaii and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs currently co-manage the monument. NOAA will collaborate with them to write management plans and regulations.

Papahānaumokuākea is larger than all other U.S. national parks combined — 582,578 square miles — and is home to many species found nowhere else on Earth.

The national monument was established in 2006 during the Bush administration and expanded during the Obama administration in 2016.

Public comments will be accepted until the end of January here.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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