Posted: July 12, 2021

National Marine Sanctuary Designation for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Two fish swimming among coral and urchin.
Rare species at a depth of 300 feet at Kure Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Image: NOAA/Richard Pyle-Bishop Museum

Monk seal and fish swim near coral reef.
A juvenile Hawaiian monk seal/‘īlioholoikauaua swims near Trig Island, French Frigate Shoals. Image: Mark Sullivan/NOAA

In December of 2020, Congress directed NOAA to initiate the process to designate Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a national marine sanctuary under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

In August of 2016, President Barack Obama issued Presidential Proclamation 9478, expanding Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The proclamation also stated that the Secretary of Commerce should consider initiating the process to designate Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a national marine sanctuary.

  • Stakeholder groups and partners, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council and the State of Hawaii, have also supported sanctuary designation.

  • This process does not change the monument designation. The national marine sanctuary designation would add an additional layer of protection and permanency to safeguard resources in the marine portions of the monument.
  • School of galapagos sharks.
    A school of galapagos sharks/manō at Maro Reef. Image: James Watt/NOAA

  • The co-management structure that is a hallmark of the monument will continue.

  • NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has been a key partner and co-managing agency in the management of Papahānaumokuākea since the initial designation of the site as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000.

  • Designation as a national marine sanctuary would supplement and complement, as well as enhance, existing authorities and the regulatory framework.

  • The establishment of a national marine sanctuary would ensure strong and lasting protections for all areas of the marine environment included in the monument, but would not include any terrestrial areas.

  • The process to designate a national marine sanctuary will be done in concert with the monument’s co-managing agencies.
  • View of island set against a dramatic sky.
    Mokumanamana (Necker Island) is known for its numerous religious sites and artifacts. Image: Ruben Carrillo

  • As a part of this collaborative process, we will also be updating the Monument Management Plan, which is 13 years old and does not include critical new information, such as the inclusion of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a co-trustee.

  • The process will be conducted as a public process and include significant opportunities for public comment.

  • Hawaiian culture is a foundational element of the management of Papahānaumokuākea. We will continue to honor and perpetuate spiritual and cultural relationships with this special place.

View informational sheet.