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Posted on Jun 8, 2022 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(HONOLULU) – The proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument would make it the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the world.

Today, in conjunction with the signing of four bills to provide better protection of ocean waters around Hawai‘i, Gov. David Ige expressed his full support for the proposal.

“Here in the Pacific, the ocean connects us. The Pacific Remote Islands are among the last wild and healthy marine ecosystems in the world, largely because of the lack of human activity. I’m in agreement that the expansion of this marine national monument is politically feasible, culturally supported, and builds on the work already done to keep this part of the Pacific Ocean healthy and abundant,” Gov. Ige said.

The monument was established in 2009 by President George W. Bush and was subsequently expanded by President Barack Obama in 2014. On June 1, the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition petitioned President Biden to further expand the monument. According to the coalition, full protection is needed in the waters surrounding Howard and Baker Islands, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll.

The marine monument currently incorporates 789,141 square miles and the proposed expansion would add another 425,639 square miles to the monument.

Extensive research at Palmyra Atoll and other Pacific islands over the past twenty years has confirmed the strong ecological link between pelagic fish, foraging birds, and coral reef communities. The areas’ underwater seamounts create productive, nutrient rich hotspots. Foraging seabirds bring these nutrients back to their island nesting grounds that feed the surrounding coral reef communities. Protecting these ocean waters is critical to this cycle.

Supporters say the expansion would honor the memory and sacrifice of members of Hui Panala‘au, 130 mostly Native Hawaiian men who were sent to Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands from 1935-1942 which enabled the U.S. to claim jurisdiction over the area.

They also note, Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which the State of Hawai‘i co-manages with federal partners and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, is the only intact cultural voyaging seascape within the Hawaiian Islands. “Expanding protection could likewise preserve the Pacific Remote Islands as a premier classroom for ancestral voyaging, preserving and promoting the culture and history of Pacific seafaring peoples,” according to the coalition.

Additional benefits of an expanded Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument include:

  • The monument is a complex, interconnected ecosystem and expansion is needed to ensure the continued health of land and nearshore areas into deeper waters for abundant populations of marine wildlife.
  • Protection would pre-emptively protect tuna and other pelagic predatory fish in the face of climate change, and by extension other species that rely on their role in the food web for continued stability.
  • Expansion affords protections to important historical objects in our shared past, from ancient Polynesian exploration to World War II.

Proponents say the expansion would not significantly affect fishing operations in the area, “and would actually protect the area from potential deep-sea mining that would cause an acute disruption to the ecosystem and therefore catch in surrounding waters.”

In a news release from the coalition, Native Hawaiian Elder Sol Kaho‘ohalahala said, “The Pacific Remote Islands hold precious connections to our past and promise for our future as Pacific peoples. In the same way these waters are at the nexus of cross-cultural voyaging pathways across Polynesia, they likewise are an intersection of climate change mitigation, cultural practice and scientific discovery. We must protect these waters.”

In Governor Ige’s letter of support to President Biden, he wrote, “I understand that large-scale marine protected areas are critical to maintaining climate change resilience, protecting biodiversity, and enhancing fisheries…I believe the proposal to expand boundaries…balances the social and economic needs of today with the future health of our ocean.”

The request for expanded protections is already supported by Hawai‘i U.S. Representative Ed Case and seven local organizations, including the Bishop Museum, the Papahānaumokuakea Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, and Papa Ola Lokahi.

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR, unless otherwise noted)

HD video – Gov. David Ige remarks on expansion support (June 8, 2022):

HD video – Supporter interviews and b-roll (Courtesy: Pacific Remote Islands Coalition):

Photographs – (Credits on individual photos):

Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawai’i Dept. of Land and Natural Resources

[email protected]