President Barack Obama has announced the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which will create the world’s largest marine reserve. In total 582,578 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers) will be protected after the Presidents decision to add 442,781 square miles to the Monument.
The Monument was created in 2006 by President George W. Bush and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to over 7,000 species, the site is rich in biodiversity as a quarter of the species are found nowhere else on Earth. Endangered sea turtles, monk seals and whales all frequent the site and it is hoped that there may be even more to discover as several new species to science have been found here recently.
It is not just the wildlife which makes this site unique, the coral reefs are home to some of the world’s oldest species; 4,000 year old black corals. Papahānaumokuākea also holds an important role in within the local culture. It is considered a sacred place for Native Hawaiians and features in their creation and settlement stories. Some may argue that the site historically important too as it is the resting place for ships and aircraft downed in the Battle of Midway in WW2.
“Papahānaumokuākea is critically important to Native Hawaiian culture—it is our ancestral place, the birthplace of all life,” Sol Kahoʻohalahala, a seventh-generation Hawaiian from the island of Lanai and a member of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, said in a statement. “The expanded monument will serve as a conservation, climate, and cultural refuge for my granddaughter and future generations.”
Featured image by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA
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