Marine National Monuments

fish resting by a coral reef

The name Papahānaumokuākea commemorates the union of two Hawaiian ancestors, Papahānaumoku and Wākea, who gave rise to the Hawaiian archipelago, the taro plant, and the Hawaiian people. Many of the islands and shallow water environments within the monument serve as important habitats for rare species like the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, as well as for the 14 million seabirds that breed and nest there.

In 2000, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were designated as an ecosystem reserve by President Bill Clinton. In 2006, the area was renamed Papahānaumokuākea and was designated as the nation’s first marine national monument by President George W. Bush. It is managed by the state of Hawai‘i, NOAA and the Department of the Interior. On July 30, 2010, it was inscribed as a mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site by delegates to the United Nations.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

fish resting by a coral reef

Located in American Samoa, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument was designated in 2009 by President George W. Bush as one of four marine national monuments in the world. In 2012, National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa expanded to contain Rose Atoll. The monument is now managed by NOAA, the Department of the Interior and the government of American Samoa. One of the most striking features of Rose Atoll Marine National Monument is the pink hue of its fringing reef, which is caused by a dominance of coralline algae.

Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA