Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument expansion

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument expansion

Monument Details

  • Location: South-central Pacific Ocean
  • Established by Presidential Proclamation: January 6, 2009
  • Expanded by Presidential Proclamation: September 25, 2014
  • Size: 308,000 square nautical miles
  • Managing agency: Cooperatively managed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Wake Island and Johnston Atoll are managed by the Department of Defense
  • Largest marine reserve in the world

Public Input

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“This unprecedented protection is an important step to rebuilding fishery abundance in the Pacific Ocean, which will in turn help to feed the world’s growing population,” Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana Vice President for U.S. Oceans

On January 6 2009, President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the Central Pacific Ocean to protect and preserve the marine environment around Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston and Palmyra Atolls, and Kingman Reef.

The seven atolls and islands included within the monument are farther from human population centers than any other U.S. area. They represent one of the last frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world, and comprise the most widespread collection of coral reef, seabird, and shorebird protected areas on the planet under a single nation’s jurisdiction.

On September 25, 2014, President Barak Obama expanded the marine monument its original size from nearly 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000. The area will protect Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll, and Jarvis Island, and keep them off-limits to activities such as commercial fishing and energy exploration..

These areas represent critical habitat for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet, including: Five species of sea turtles, including the largest turtle in the world – the endangered leatherback sea turtle, dolphins, pearl oysters, giant clams, coconut crabs, large groupers, humphead wrasses, and bumphead parrotfishes and twenty-two species of whales and other protected marine mammals, including the endangered blue whale and humpback whale.

The monument expansion will help ensure the survival and recovery of whitetip sharks, yellowfin tuna and other large predatory fish whose populations have declined 90% across the world’s oceans.

Expansive shallow coral reefs and deep coral forests – with some corals up to 5,000 years old – are found here. These small dots of land in the midst of the ocean are vital nesting habitat for three million of seabirds of 19 different species and resting habitat for migratory shorebirds.

The monument includes 33 sea mountain (or seamounts); the adjacent areas include approximately 132 more. Estimates are that 15 to 44 percent of the species on a seamount or seamount group are found nowhere else on Earth. The approximately 132 seamounts in the adjacent areas provide the opportunity for identification and discovery of many species not yet known to humans, with possibilities for research, medicines, and other important uses.

The adjacent areas also provide an important ecosystem for scientific study and research. The pristine waters provide a baseline comparison for important scientific research that monitors and evaluates impacts of global climate change, including benchmarking coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

The protection provided by the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument will also help restore fish stocks for U.S. fishermen and crack down on illegal foreign fishing in other areas.

Public Input

In January 2009, following several years of research and advocacy work by marine advocates, President George W. Bush designated the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act.

As a result of continued research in the newly protected area, a scientific review of large marine protected areas was published in November 2013, which identified key threats and management challenges in the Pacific monuments. As a result of this and additional research, the marine research community put together a scientific justification for the monument expansion.

At the State Department’s Our Oceans Conference in June 2014, President Obama announced his intention to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument. The announcement was based on a report providing scientific basis for the expansion. The proposal received overwhelming support from scientists, businesses, and conservation groups—more than 200 scientists, 200 Native Hawaiian leaders, 35 Hawai’i business leaders, 40 national conservation groups and foundations, and 135,000 U.S. citizens sent messages of support to the White House during the public comment period.

A town hall meeting on the possible expansion of the protections of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was held on August 11, 2014 in Honolulu, HI.

In response to stakeholder meetings and comments received, adjustments to the proposal were made before the expansion of the monument occurred in September 2014.