Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

The Marine National Monument is the U.S. largest fully protected conservation area and one of the world's largest marine protected areas. 


Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument encompasses the ten small islands and atolls that are known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), one of the most remote places in U.S. waters. Over 7,000 different species of marine animals call these waters home and about 1,700 of them are endemic to the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Papahānaumokuākea protects 22 marine endangered species, including green sea turtles, Laysan ducks, and the Hawaiian monk seal. Its shallow coral reefs, deep-water banks, and steep seamounts provide critical, near-pristine habitat for these species that might otherwise be facing extinction. The Monument's geographic isolation means it isn't impacted as severely by human threats, such as habitat destruction.

To protect Papahānaumokuākea, managers have enacted strong regulations within the monument. The inner section of the park, which was originally designated by President George W. Bush in 2006, has a strict no-take policy. The outer section of the park was added in 2016, and allows limited activities like scientific research and Native Hawaiian practices. This outer, limited-use area acts as a huge buffer for the inner, no-take area, giving it even greater protection. Because Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a great example of a marine protected area that strongly safeguards unique, valuable ocean ecosystems, it was awarded Global Ocean Refuge status.

The Global Ocean Refuge System is a Marine Conservation Institute initiative working to build a global network of effective marine protected areas to save ocean wildlife. In 2018, the Global Ocean Refuge System grew to include 10 blue parks around the world.