"Sister Site" Partnership Established Between Papahānaumokuākea and Kiribati's
Phoenix Islands MPA
On Wednesday, September 23 in New York, two of the world's largest
marine protected areas announced a historic alliance to to better protect and manage almost 300,000 square miles of marine
habitat in the Pacific Ocean.
|View from the Phoenix Islands. Photo: David Obura
The United States and the Nation of Kiribati signed an agreement on Setpember 23 in New York that establishes a "sister site" relationship between the Papahānaumokuākea
Marine National Monument, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area near the equator in the Republic
of Kiribati. Managers of both sites will meet in November in French
Polynesia to formalize the agreement. The Monument is managed by the
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), on behalf of NOAA, in
partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii.
Combined, the two sites encompass 25 percent of all marine protected
areas on Earth. The partnership links the sites and is designed to
enhance management knowledge and practices for these tropical and
subtropical marine and terrestrial island ecosystems.
When it was established in 2006, the Monument was the largest marine
protected area in the world, protecting natural, cultural and historic
resources within an area of approximately 140,000 square miles (362,075
square kilometers). The monument's extensive coral reefs are home to
over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the
|The Phoenix Islands. Photo: David Obura
In 2008, the Phoenix Island Protected Area was founded to protect the
archipelago's terrestrial and marine resources, becoming the largest
marine protected area in the world today at approximately 158,500 square
miles (410,500 square kilometers). The coral reefs and bird populations
of the islands are highly unique and virtually untouched by humans. The
protected area also includes underwater seamounts and other deep-sea
"Our sites are part of a growing trend globally in ocean protection -
the establishment of large-scale marine protected areas,' said 'Aulani
Wilhelm, ONMS's superintendent for the Monument. "By partnering, we hope
to collaborate on innovative initiatives highlighting not only the
ecological connections we share, but also Pacific heritage and cultural
connections we have as island people across Oceania."
|Coral found in the Phoenix Islands. Photo: David Obura
Removed from most human activity, both areas serve as global "sentinel
sites" by providing potential early warning and a comparative baseline
of understanding of how natural, less disturbed systems react to
changing climate conditions and external influences. Although
geographically distant from their respective local population centers,
both sites are supported by and rely on involvement of local and
indigenous communities to develop successful management regimes.
Both sites were nominated this year by their respective governments as
World Heritage Sites, a designation of the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization.