The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was originally created in 2006 by President George W. Bush as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act, a decision that was influenced by Ocean Elders Jean-Michel Cousteau and Dr. Sylvia Earle. In 2010, UNESCO designated the monument as a World Heritage Site. 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.
In 2014, Ocean Elders sent letters to both Hawaii Senator Schatz and President Obama advocating for further expansion, and in July 2016 joined forces with the Benioff Ocean Initiative, supporting their letter to President Obama, along with additional efforts, encouraging the expansion of the Monument. The Papahānaumokuākea Monument was expanded by President Obama on August 26, 2016. 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.