AUG 29, 2016 6:15 AM PDT

Hawaii's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument


Obama has been busy in the last week with conservation and the Antiquities Act. On the eve of the centennial for the National Park Service he created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, and now not even a week later he has expanded the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument to quadruple the size that it encompasses.

Off the coast of Hawaii, the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument was created by President George W. Bush in 2006 and at the time, it was seven times larger than all the other U.S. marine sanctuaries combined and the biggest marine reserve in the world.
 
Map of Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument. Map provided by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Public Domain.

However (fortunately), countries around the world have upped the standards for marine reserve areas and Obama had to add 442,781 square miles, making a total protected area of 582,578 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers) in order to keep the number one spot. The reserve is now more than twice the size of Texas.

Papah?naumoku?kea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted its biodiversity: "Although much of the region remains to be fully explored, Papah?naumoku?kea is home to more than 7,000 species, a quarter of which are endemic, or found nowhere else on Earth; some have only recently been discovered. The area provides habitat for rare species such as threatened green turtles, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, and false killer whales, as well as 14 million seabirds representing 22 species. This year, scientists exploring these waters discovered a new type of ghostlike octopus they nicknamed Casper, as well as three new species of fish."

The Associated Press notes that "The monument designation bans commercial fishing and any new mining, as is the case within the existing monument. Recreational fishing will be allowed through a permit, as will be scientific research and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices."
 

Indeed, the location of the monument is culturally important. The statement announcing the expansion reads: "Native Hawaiian culture considers the Monument and the adjacent area a sacred place. This place contains the boundary between Ao, the world of light and the living, and P?, the world of the gods and spirits from which all life is born and to which ancestors return after death.”

“The expanded monument will serve as a conservation, climate, and cultural refuge for my granddaughter and future generations,”Sol Kaho?ohalahala, a seventh-generation Hawaiian from the island of Lanai and a member of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, said in a statement.

Sources: Mongabay News, NPR, The Atlantic, The Pew Charitable Trusts
 

 
About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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