NOAA Eyes New Sanctuary in Papahānaumokuākea

A Hawaiian monk seal interacts with a tropical fish near vibrant coral formations in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, captured by NOAA.

Public Invited to Comment on Marine Sanctuary Proposal

In a significant environmental and cultural initiative, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has introduced a proposal for the establishment of a national marine sanctuary within the confines of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

This move signals an enduring commitment to marine conservation and cultural preservation. NOAA’s announcement sets the stage for public involvement, urging comments and insights until May 7, 2024, to sculpt the future of this ecological marvel.

“NOAA looks forward to continuing our work with partners and co-managers to strengthen the conservation of Papahānaumokuākea’s natural, cultural and historic treasures.” affirmed NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. This statement reflects the administration’s dedication to sustainable marine environments and collaborative governance.

  • Area Covered: 582,578 square miles
  • Endangered Species: Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtles
  • Cultural Significance: Native Hawaiian heritage, WWII artifacts
  • Public Comment Period: Until May 7, 2024
  • Management Bodies: NOAA, State of Hawaii, Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Ecological Significance

Papahānaumokuākea is an ecological treasure trove, home to the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the green sea turtle, alongside countless species unique to the archipelago. The area’s expansive marine ecosystems play a crucial role in the global biological diversity framework, contributing to the vast tapestry of life beneath the waves.

Hawaiian monk seal swimming in the clear blue waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, showcasing the serene and protected marine environment.
Source Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Photo by Andrew GrayNOAA
A Hawaiian monk seal gliding effortlessly over the coral reef in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, highlighting the serene underwater ecosystem.
Source Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Photo by Andrew GrayNOAA

Cultural and Historic Value

The significance of Papahānaumokuākea transcends its natural beauty, embedding deep cultural and historical roots, especially for Native Hawaiians. The area’s management and conservation efforts reflect the respect and recognition of its profound cultural impact and heritage, encompassing spiritual ties and historical artifacts from significant periods, including World War II and the era of commercial whaling.

Proposed Sanctuary Advantages

The sanctuary proposal is designed to fortify the protection of Papahānaumokuākea’s unique marine, cultural, and historical assets. By establishing clearer regulations and a comprehensive management framework, the sanctuary status aims to complement and enhance the existing protective measures, ensuring the safeguarding of this invaluable region for future generations.

Elegant Hawaiian monk seal swimming gracefully above the coral reef in Papahānaumokuākea, surrounded by tropical fish in the crystal-clear blue ocean.
Source Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Photo by Andrew GrayNOAA
Close-up view of a Hawaiian monk seal in Papahānaumokuākea, highlighting its curious gaze and detailed features against a backdrop of underwater coral reef.
Source Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Photo by Andrew GrayNOAA

Public Engagement and Comments

Highlighting the importance of public engagement, NOAA has opened the floor for comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Additionally, the agency has scheduled a series of in-person and virtual meetings, inviting stakeholders to offer their perspectives and contribute to the sanctuary’s final blueprint.

Management and Partnerships

Reflecting a collaborative management approach, the proposed sanctuary will be co-managed by NOAA and the State of Hawaii, building on the foundation established by the monument’s current co-trustees. This partnership underscores a commitment to shared stewardship and conservation goals, reinforcing the collective endeavor to protect and preserve Papahānaumokuākea.

The proposed Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Sanctuary represents an essential stride towards the integrated conservation of marine biodiversity and cultural legacy. This initiative not only underscores the importance of preserving natural habitats and historical sites but also emphasizes the role of community and public involvement in shaping environmental policy and conservation strategies. The collaborative approach between federal and state entities, alongside public input, sets a precedent for future conservation projects, heralding a new era of environmental stewardship and cultural reverence.


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