The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the uninhabited northwestern Hawaiian islands has just been expanded by President Obama, according to an announcement from the White House. The monument was neither doubled, nor tripled, but quadrupled from 139,797 square miles to 582,578 square miles, which is now the largest marine protected area, and double the size of Texas.
As you can imagine, there were those who opposed the expansion, mostly from fishing and restaurant industries, but interestingly, hundreds of small-scale fisherman supported the expansion. In the end, success was earned through the combined efforts of a group of Native Hawaiians, a statewide coalition and a partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Global Ocean Legacy Project.
Over a million people from Hawaii and around the world signed petitions in support. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii was also an invaluable contributor, having submitted the expansion proposal to the president, among other efforts. Other supporters include Governor Ige, along with about 1,500 scientists.
What makes this monument so important to protect? Its waters contain the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the ocean that scientists have yet discovered. Over 7,000 known species exist there, and more are being discovered over time. Some consider its crowning glory to be the black coral, which is the longest living known marine species in the world, some of which are upwards of 4,500 years of age.
Even here off the shores of the main Hawaiian islands, our marine ecosystems are marvels for scientists and explorers. If you’d like to experience these remarkable underwater ecosystems, we hope to see you aboard either our Molokini Snorkel Tour or our Lanai Snorkel Tour. Both offer a plethora of marine life sightings. Don’t forget your underwater camera! If you need assistance booking your trip, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!