Just last week, President Obama announced that he will quadruple the Papahānaumokuākea Hawaii Monument—creating the world’s largest protected marine area. At 582,578 square miles, Papahānaumokuākea will be nearly four times the size of California and 105 times larger than Connecticut. This is huge news for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, sharks and more that call this uniquely biodiverse seascape home.
Nicholas Mallos, Director of our Trash Free Seas program, traveled to Papahānaumokuākea in 2010 to see first-hand the beauty—and the dangers—in this spectacular ecosystem.
Setting foot on land more than 1,000 miles from your nearest neighbor, one might suspect to find themselves in an unspoiled environment with little or no sign of human presence. Unfortunately, on Midway Atoll, this is not the case. Part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Midway is at the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, roughly equidistant from Asia and North America.
Last week, we learned President Obama is creating the world’s largest marine protected area by expanding the Hawaiian national monument of Papahānaumokuākea! We’re excited. Seriously excited. In honor of that announcement, here are five reasons we love Papahānaumokuākea, and how its expansion just means more to love.
1. The name
While we (still) might be struggling with the pronunciation, the name Papahānaumokuākea holds rich cultural significance, meaning the union of two native ancestors in Hawaiian mythology. The name itself is a combination of the Earth Mother, Papahānaumoku, and the Sky Father, Wakea, who together created the islands and its people.
Let’s create the world’s largest protected marine area, ever.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the most remote and fragile ecological areas in the world, called Papahānaumokuāke. Four years ago, President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuāke Marine National Monument to protect 50 nautical miles that provide sanctuary to sea turtles, sharks, coral and critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Today, we’re asking the President to make Papahānaumokuāke the largest protected marine area in the world, by expanding the monument to 200 nautical miles—four times larger than its current size. That’s where you come in.
Plastics are everywhere. And by that I don’t just mean in the physical sense, but also in terms of the media. Everywhere I look lately newspaper and blog headlines are focused on the increased pervasiveness of plastic pollution in our ocean.
This was our top tweet of the week and it’s no wonder why–finding out that over one third of a given sample of fish have plastic in their bellies is downright creepy. This study by Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association illustrates the tangible effects that trash has on our ocean. If you’re looking for ways to lessen your impact and to keep the ocean healthy, try downloading our mobile app, Rippl. You’ll get weekly ocean-friendly tips and be able to track your progress!
Neither tsunami debris nor marine debris is going away any time soon. Following an August 2012 NGO tsunami meeting and increasing reports of tsunami debris on the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii, concern and interest about tsunami debris in Japan continues to increase. Responding to this interest, the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan has funded a series of beach site investigations in the United States to convey the present situation of both tsunami and marine debris to Japan officials and the Japanese people. The first stop for these surveys: Hawaii.
I teamed up with members from Japan Environmental Action Network (JEAN), the Oceanic Wildlife Society and the Japan Ministry of Environment tobegin surveys on O’ahu beaches where confirmed and suspected tsunami debris has recently been found . During our first inspection at Hanauma Bay, we examined a rusted Japanese refrigerator that washed ashore on December 20th, 2012, several days before a second fridge was found on Waimanalo Beach. Cleanup volunteers commonly found refrigerator pieces on Kaua’i beaches during this past summer.
Dr. Nikolai Maximenko of the University of Hawaii International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) explained that these different ‘waves’ of alike debris (e.g., oyster buoys, refrigerators, etc.) are a result of how tsunami debris is affected by wind. Because the tsunami debris entered the ocean at the same time, similar items travel at the same speed and will appear on Hawaiian and West Coast beaches around the same time.