Native Hawaiians Call for World's Largest Marine Reserve

Voices of Papahānaumokuākea

Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced pa-pa-hah-now-mo-koo-ah-keh-ah) is the Hawaiian name for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The word refers to a sacred area from which all life springs. This remote archipelago supports key ecosystems, including relatively undisturbed coral reefs, seamounts, pelagic zones, and an array of marine life. These waters are home to more than 7,000 species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

In the 10-minute video “Voices of Papahānaumokuākea,” Native Hawaiians give firsthand accounts of how the declining health of the Pacific Ocean affects their community and explain why an expansion of the national monument is so vital to their way of life.

At the time of its creation in 2006, Papahānaumokuākea was the largest highly protected marine park in the world, spanning nearly 140,000 square miles (363,000 square kilometers). The designation marked the first time that a region of this size had been set aside as a protected area in the ocean. Since then, more than a dozen large-scale marine reserves have been established around the world.

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument has allowed Native Hawaiians to maintain strong cultural ties to the land and the surrounding Pacific waters. Enlarging Papahānaumokuākea would again position this area as the world’s largest marine reserve and ensure a healthy ecosystem for future generations and the species that depend on it. Expansion to the limits of the U.S. exclusive economic zone would make a remarkable contribution toward reaching critical global targets for ocean conservation.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Global Ocean Legacy project supports Native Hawaiians’ push for expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. For more facts and videos on GOL initiatives, please visit

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