Protecting Papahānaumokuākea

Protecting Papahānaumokuākea

HAWAII. When Americans think of monuments, they often think of the grand memorials on terra firma: Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Typically, they do not think of national monuments that are located in the ocean.

There are 101 designated national monuments of the United States government including the Rose Atoll Marine Monument in American Samoa, the southernmost point in the United States, and the Marianas Trench Marine in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The national monuments also include the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (aka Papahānaumokuākea), the largest protected marine area in the world that encompassing 140,000 square miles (360,000 km2) of ocean waters and 10 islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Larger than 46 states in America and 7 times larger than all other national marine sanctuaries combined, the World Heritage site is simply massive and, characteristically, dramatic.

In designating the area as a national monument, its proclamation included this description, “The area has deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture, as an ancestral environment, as an embodiment of the Hawaiian concept of kinship between people and the natural world, and as the place where it is believed that life originates and to where the spirits return after death. On two of the islands, Nihoa and Makumanamana, there are archaeological remains relating to pre-European settlement and use. Much of the monument is made up of pelagic and deepwater habitats, with notable features such as seamounts and submerged banks, extensive coral reefs and lagoons.”

The designation of the world’s largest protected marine area was inspired in part by the PBS documentary series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures Voyage to Kure in 2006:



Global map above shows the locations of all sites in the United States National Marine Sanctuary system.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source