Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii is one of the largest marine protected areas ever created. Established by the Bush administration as a joint federal-state project, Papahanaumokuakea is not technically a wildlife sanctuary, but is home to a considerable number of threatened species, including the green sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal.
- History of Papahanaumokuakea -
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where Papahanaumokuakea is located, have been subject to conservationist intervention for a century, since the Teddy Roosevelt administration created a national reservation to protect seabird nesting areas from hunters. The next Roosevelt president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, reclassified the area the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and in subsequent years it received extensions to include Midway Atoll, Kure Atoll and offshore coral reefs.
Finally, in the most recent adjustment to the area, the Bush administration declared the waters off of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument in 2006. Using the same procedure previously used to establish the African Burial Ground National Monument, Bush proclaimed the creation of the monument under an antiquarian law called the Antiquities Act, eliminating the normal process of public consultations. In addition, as a national monument, certain harvesting of resources is permitted, and the small commercial bottomfish industry has been allowed to continue under government regulation and oversight. However, lobster fishing was suspended a decade ago as a result of declining stocks, and will probably never resume now that the area is a national monument.
After the creation of Papahanaumokuakea National Monument, the site was also submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNSECO) for designation as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO has accepted the proposal and is now considering the appropriate designation for Papahanaumokuakea, with an announcement expected in 2010.
- Inside Papahanaumokuakea -
Papahanaumokuakea was the 96th such monument created by the American government, and incorporates 140,000 square miles of reefs and seas. Among its most important environmental contributions at present are the protection offered to a pair of threatened and endangered species, respectively, the green sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal. Other species which are protected as part of Papahanaumokuakea National Monument include two species of finch, the Laysan duck, the Laysan albatross, and local lobster stocks, which were decimated by overfishing, but, it is hoped, will now be able to slowly recover.
It is difficult to visit the Papahanaumokuakea National Monument as a tourist simply because of minimal access opportunities. However, there are cruises which pass through the area.