The announcement today by President Barack Obama to create the world’s largest marine protected area by expanding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii is an essential step to permanently protect the pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats, and important ecological resources in the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The expansion will also improve ocean resilience in order to combat ocean acidification, warming and other impacts of climate change.
The expansion provides protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world — black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years.
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was originally created in 2006 by President George W. Bush and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Since that time, new scientific exploration and research has revealed new species and deep sea habitats as well as important ecological connections between the existing monument and the adjacent waters. Today’s designation will expand the existing Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the expanded monument to 582,578 square miles.
Photo Credit: Brian Skerry