Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was first established by President George W. Bush in 2006 and then quadrupled in size by President Barack Obama in 2016 via their executive authority under the Antiquities Act.
The 583,000-square-mile Pacific Ocean reserve — the world’s second largest protected place — is home to millions of birds and 7,000 marine species, endangered plants and animals, and critters found nowhere else. And scientists continue to discover new species.
The monument includes dozens of tiny islands, atolls and shoals that span some 1,300 miles northwest of the eight Main Hawaiian Islands.
Access is restricted without a permit. Commercial fishing, mining and development are prohibited, though there have been efforts under President Donald Trump to loosen protections.
Papahanaumokuakea remains under constant threat. Marine debris plagues shorelines, plastics fill the bellies of birds, native ecosystems battle invasive species and the effects of climate change — especially sea level rise, a warming ocean and stronger storms — present challenges to the monument’s future.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and state Office of Hawaiian Affairs jointly manage the monument.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are valued for their cultural, historic and scientific importance. Papahanaumokuakea has layers of protection that began more than a century ago with President Theodore Roosevelt. The monument is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes national wildlife refuges.