Image Gallery

Photos Show Why US Should Expand Hawaii Marine Reserve

Many islanders call for enlarging the ocean park to safeguard biodiversity and tradition

Editor’s note: This gallery was updated on August 26, 2016 to illustrate the status of the listed marine reserves and include the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

When it was created in 2006, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, was the largest highly protected marine reserve in the world, covering 139,818 square miles (362,127 square kilometers). Its designation marked the first time a protected area of its size and level of protection had been established in the ocean.

Creation of the monument helped inspire an international movement to safeguard large swaths of ocean: In the ensuing decade, governments around the world designated more than a dozen large-scale marine protected areas, nine of them larger than Papahānaumokuākea.

Native Hawaiians called on President Barack Obama to expand the monument by an additional 442,760 square miles (almost 1.15 million square kilometers), excluding Niihau and Kauai islands—a move that would again make it the largest marine reserve in the world.

To Hawaiians, Papahānaumokuākea, which means “a sacred area from which all life springs,” is a place of honor, the root of native ancestral connections to the gods, and where spirits return after death.

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