By Treena Shapiro
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will be become the world’s largest marine protected area, according to an announcement from the White House.
Encompassing the marine area of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, home to more than 7,000 marine species and important historic and scientific artifacts, Papahānaumokuākea will be expanded to four times its original area, making it twice as large as Texas.
In May, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees voted to conditionally support the proposed boundary expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument provided that:
All conditions have been met.
“The expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is an important acknowledgment by the president of a shared goal to be responsible stewards of this environmentally-sensitive area,” said OHA Board Chairman Robert K. Lindsey Jr. “It is largely for this reason OHA now looks forward to the long-awaited opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to helping manage the cultural significance of the entire expanded area.”
An Aug. 26 letter to Gov. David Ige affirmed OHA’s role as co-trustee will be formalized over the next 90 days. “We understand the cultural significance of the Monument to the Native Hawaiian community and that recognizing a greater role in managing this special space was important for a number of people in supporting the Monument Expansion. We are also pleased that President Obama’s Proclamation establishing the Monument Expansion specifically recognized the cultural significance of this area,” wrote U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who received input from more than 500 Hawaiʻi residents before coming to their decision.
“Additionally, we acknowledge the valuable cultural perspectives and insights OHA has long provided in management discussions related to the Monument. The State of Hawaiʻi, including OHA and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service share a strong partnership and duty to protect the resources within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Monument Expansion,” the letter continues.
“OHA applauds President Obama’s decision to elevate the voice of Native Hawaiians in the management of the lands and waters in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Papahānaumokuākea is critical to Native Hawaiian spiritual wellbeing, and this action by the President helps revive our connection to our kūpuna islands and reinforce our understanding of Hawaiʻi as a contiguous spiritual and cultural seascape,” said OHA Ka Pouhana/CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe. “Thanks to the President’s decision, these resources will be better protected for generations to come.”
“The elevation of OHA to a Co-Trustee position rightfully places the Native Hawaiian voice at all levels of decision making in the governance of Papahānaumokuākea. This has been a 10 year effort to achieve this position and this success marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration for the co-managers of the area to fulfill the tremendous responsibility of protecting and caring for this sacred place,” Crabbe added.
According to the White House, President Obama will be in Hawaiʻi to address world leaders on the eve of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress and will travel to Papahānaumokuākea on Sept. 1.