Papahānaumokuākea

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Honolulu, USA, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 250 km northwest of Hawaii’s main islands and is about 1931 km long. In the water around Papahānaumokuākea is a long line of small, low-lying islands and atolls. For Native Hawaiian culture today, the place has a lot of cosmological and cultural meaning.

James Watt wrote “Reef Fish by James Watt” to show a little bit of the past and the Hawaiian idea that people and nature are connected. Most people call it the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The site is in a part of the ocean that is 140,000 square miles (360,000 km2) big and has ten islands and atolls.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush made the area a national monument. On July 30, 2010, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 7,000 different species live in Papahanaumokuakea. Only 25% of the species are found nowhere else.

Its border moved to the edge of the country’s exclusive economic zone in August 2016. This made it bigger. This made the ocean 1.510,000 km2 bigger (583,000 square miles). So, it is one of the largest protected areas in the world. It is known all over the world for the following cultural and natural features.

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The area is very important to the living Native Hawaiian culture in terms of cosmology and tradition. People’s ancestors used to live there. It shows the relationship between people and the natural world in Hawaii. People also think that this is where life begins and where souls go after they die.

On two of the islands, Nihoa and Mokumanamana, there are ruins that show how people lived and worked before Europeans arrived. Most of the monument is made up of pelagic and deep-water habitats like seamounts and submerged banks, large coral reefs, and lagoons.

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument

Only 2,000 of the 7,000 species in the monument can’t be found anywhere else. Important species include the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle, the threatened Green sea turtle, and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Important species also include the Laysan and Nihoa finches, the Nihoa millerbird, the Laysan duck, seabirds like the Laysan albatross, and many kinds of plants and arthropods.

The Pew Charitable Trusts says that lobster populations haven’t recovered from the heavy fishing that went on in the 1980s and 1990s, which is now illegal. There are no more places to fish. The North Pacific’s ocean ecosystem went through a big change in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) says that many species’ populations still haven’t fully recovered.

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The numbers of important species like spiny lobsters, seabirds, and Hawaiian monk seals went down because of this change. In 2011, no one fished for money anymore. For conservation purposes, the monument is strictly protected. But Native Hawaiian traditions and a small amount of tourism are allowed.

The monument includes reefs, atolls, shallow seas, and deep seas up to 200 miles (320 km) away in the Pacific Ocean. It is bigger than all of the United States’ national parks put together. About 10% of the shallow water tropical coral reef habitat in the US is there. Up to 100 fathoms (180 m) of water cover this area.

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It is about the same size as Germany and a little bigger than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It takes up about half as much space as Alaska. All of the islands in the monument are in the state of Hawaii, except for Midway Atoll, which is in the United States Minor Outlying Islands. You can take a plane to the monument from Midway Atoll’s Henderson Field.

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Honolulu

The Papahanaumokuakea marine national monument is close to the city of Honolulu. It is in one of the most remote groups of islands in the northern Pacific Ocean. This huge part of the ocean is one of the biggest places in the world where the environment is protected. It is home to many rare and unique species that could go extinct if they are not protected.

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Coral reefs in this huge body of water are the deepest and furthest north on Earth. It is one of the few places on Earth where the ocean is still healthy. On Papahanaumokuakea, most of the Hawaiian monk seals that are still alive in the world live. The low islands and sharp cliffs are where most Laysan ducks, Nihoa finches, and black-footed albatrosses live.

Near coral reefs, sharks and blue trevally (giant ulua) swim in big groups. Only on coral reefs do the ocean’s top predators still have control. Hawaiians have always thought of Papahanaumokuakea as a sacred land and sea. It’s a big part of how they see their history and culture.

Around 300 AD, Polynesians came to the area for the first time. They were part of a migration that began in 3000 BC and took them all the way across the Pacific. Before the Europeans came, people had been living on these islands for almost a thousand years.

Even though most of them lived on the main islands in the archipelago, there are signs of people on Nihoa and Mokumanamana. The cultural sites on these islands are so important that they are on both the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Historic Places.

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Hawaiian cosmology says that of all the islands in the Hawaiian Archipelago, Mokumanamana has the most holy places. There are also places where people lived long before the West came. Among other things, these sites talk about the Battle of Midway and whaling in the 1800s.

The World Heritage Site shows that whale hunting had a big impact on the Hawaiian Islands in the past. At the start of the 1800s, ships came to the harbor in Honolulu to buy food and hire new whalers. About a quarter of the sailors in the American whaling fleet that was based in the Pacific were Native Hawaiians.

Too many fishermen made it hard to catch whales, so sailors went to the Northwestern Islands near the Kure Atoll to find whale oil. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, at least eleven whaling ships have gone missing. So far, five of these old ships have been found.

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Author: Amitava Ray
I'm a photographer (1979) and a blogger (2006). My future photography and blogging endeavors are contingent on the success of Whizzed Net.