Hawaii is Now Home to the World’s Largest Marine Protected Area

August 31, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

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Photo credit: UNESCO/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

President Obama had quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Last week, President Obama announced the establishment of the world’s largest marine protected area in the waters northwest of Hawaii.

The expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles (1.1 million square kilometers) now brings the total protected area to 582,578 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers). The Houston Chronicle notes that the expanded national monument is “larger than all the U.S. national parks and national forests combined.”

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, the monument boasts more than 7,000 marine species, including endangered whales and sea turtles. It is also home to the world’s longest-lived marine species — black coral, which can survive more than 4,500 years.

According to a White House press release, “All commercial resource extraction activities, including commercial fishing and any future mineral extraction, are prohibited in the expansion area, as they are within the boundaries of the existing monument.” Recreational fishing, and use of marine resources by Native Hawaiians and for scientific research, will require special permits.

The monument also holds cultural significance for Native Hawaiians. Sol Kahoʻohalahala, a seventh-generation Hawaiian from the island of Lanai and a member of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, comments: “it is our ancestral place, the birthplace of all life. The expanded monument will serve as a conservation, climate, and cultural refuge for my granddaughter and future generations.”

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