Designated: June 15, 2006
Expanded: August 26, 2016
Area: 139,797 mi²
History was made in 2016 when President Barack Obama announced the four-fold expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine protected area in the Northern Hemisphere. Papahānaumokuākea protects one of the last pristine ocean environments in the world, preserves Native Hawaiian traditions for future generations and safeguards the remains of those lost during World War II’s Battle of Midway.
Its extensive coral reefs are home to over 7000 marine species, some found nowhere else in the world. Monument residents include endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, 14 million seabirds, sharks, billfish, tuna and four species of duck unique to the region.
The destination’s role in maritime and cultural heritage is equally significant. With the highest density of sacred sites in the archipelago, it is closely tied to the Hawaiian peoples’ history. Within the boundaries are more than 60 known shipwreck sites spanning centuries as well as Midway Atoll, where the US forces irreparably damaged the Japanese fleet in the famous WWII battle.
Papahanaumokuakea was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010, the first mixed-use world heritage site in the United States, and one of only 28 in the world at the time. The mixed-use inscription acknowledges both the unique natural and cultural features of the marine national monument, and the interconnectedness of those resources.