2023 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest

May 26, 2023 through September 4, 2023


Proposed Designation of Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Sanctuary

On March 24, 2023, President Biden directed the Secretary of Commerce to consider initiating the designation process for a proposed national marine sanctuary in the Pacific Remote Islands area. On April 17, 2023, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries issued a Notice of Intent to Conduct Scoping and to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Designation of a National Marine Sanctuary for the Pacific Remote Islands, launching the designation process.

Sanctuary designation would allow NOAA to augment the existing protections for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument with additional regulatory and non-regulatory tools, and to conserve additional areas outside the monument's existing boundary. The proposed sanctuary would not include terrestrial areas or diminish the protections of the existing monument designations.

Area of Proposed Designation

Map of the proposed pacific remote islands national marine sanctuary: Wake Atoll, Johnston Atoll Howland and Baker Islands, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, and Jarvis Island; Also visible are Papahanaumokuakea MNM, Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale NMS, and NMS of American Samoa and Rose Atoll MNM
Proposed Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: NOAA

The proposed national marine sanctuary would include the marine areas within the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, as well as those currently unprotected submerged lands and waters to the full extent of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, an area totaling about 770,000 square miles. The Pacific Remote Islands encompass Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands; Johnston, Wake, and Palmyra Atolls; and Kingman Reef. The proposed sanctuary would not include terrestrial areas above the mean high tide line.

Description of Resources

Acropora coral
Acropora corals grow toward the sunlight to form beautiful, massive tables at Palmyra Atoll. Credit: Jeff Milisen/NOAA

The atolls, shoals, banks, reefs, seamounts, and open-ocean waters surrounding the Pacific Remote Islands are home to some of the most diverse and remarkable tropical marine life on the planet, but are becoming increasingly vulnerable to impacts from climate change, invasive species, and marine debris. The region's diverse habitats and pristine reefs provide a haven for a variety of fish, invertebrates, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals – many found nowhere else in the world – and are an ideal laboratory for monitoring the effects of climate change. For example, both Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef support higher levels of coral diversity (180 to 190 species) than any other atoll or reef island in the central Pacific. Numerous threatened, endangered, and depleted species thrive in the area, including green and hawksbill sea turtles, pearl oysters, giant clams, oceanic whitetip sharks, humphead (Maori) wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, spinner dolphins, and melon-headed whales.

Thousands of convict tangs school in the shallows
Thousands of convict tangs school in the shallows off Jarvis Island. Credit: Courtney Couch/NOAA

The proposed sanctuary would honor the ancestral, historical, and cultural connections to the Pacific Remote Islands and the surrounding open-ocean waters and recognize the importance of Indigenous knowledge, language, stories, and cultural connections between lands, waters, and peoples, and celebrate distinct cultures. Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Carolinian, and many other Pacific Island Indigenous Peoples, have voyaged across this vast expanse of the Central and Western Pacific Ocean over thousands of years, interpreting the stars, winds, and currents with great skill and proficiency to settle new areas, engage in trade and commerce, and exchange knowledge and cultures among distant communities.

Public Comment

NOAA invites the public to comment on the proposed sanctuary designation through June 2, 2023. Input received will assist NOAA with the preparation and release of draft designation documents, and in formulating alternatives for the draft environmental impact statement.

Submit comments online

Submit all electronic public comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov. Search for "NOAA-NOS-2023-0052". Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

Submit comments by mail

Comments must be postmarked by June 2, 2023. Send comments to:

PRI-Proposed Sanctuary, NOAA/ONMS
℅ Hoku Kaaekuahiwi Pousima
76 Kamehameha Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720

Attend Public Meetings

NOAA will host in-person public meetings, with an option to join virtually, if possible, on the following dates. During the meetings, NOAA will gather public input on boundaries, compatible uses, threats a new sanctuary would address, how best to promote marine science and education initiatives, and other topics as described in the Notice of Intent. Meeting times, locations, and virtual meeting links will be added at least 15 days before each meeting.

May 10, 2023: 5-7 p.m. (HST)

University of Hawaii - Manoa,
Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies,
Hālau o Haumea,
2645 Dole St.,
Honolulu, HI 96822

May 11, 2023: 5-7 p.m. (HST)

Mokupāpapa Discovery Center,
76 Kamehameha Ave.,
Hilo, HI 96720

May 17, 2023: 6-8 p.m. (ChST)

Guam Museum,
193 Chalan Santo Papa Juan Pablo Dos,
Hagåtña, Guam 96910

May 18, 2023: 6-8 p.m. (ChST)

American Memorial Park,
924 Micro Beach Rd, Garapan,
Saipan, MP 96950

May 19, 2023: 2-4 p.m. (ChST)

Office of the Mayor of Rota
San Francisco de Borja Highway, Tatachog
Rota, MP 96951

In-person only, no virtual participation

May 20, 2023: 2-4 p.m. (ChST)

Tinian Public Library,
San Jose Village
Tinian, MP 96952

In-person only, no virtual participation

May 24, 2023: 4-6 p.m. (SST)

1 Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center,
Utulei, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799

Participate virtually: attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5847053733658211157


Virtual Public Scoping Meetings:

May 25, 5-7 p.m. (HST), 4-6 p.m. (SST)
May 26, 3-5 p.m. (MHT), 1-2 p.m. (CHUT, YAPT, ChST), 2-4 p.m. (PONT, KOST) NOON-2 p.m. (PWT)

Registration URL: attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6433833402947611993

May 31, 9-11 p.m. (HST), 8-10 p.m. (SST)
June 1, 7-9 p.m. (MHT), 5-7 p.m. (CHUT, YAPT, ChST), 6-8 p.m. (PONT, KOST), 4-6 p.m. (PWT)

Registration URL: attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7329285568213158743

Time zones: Hawaii (HST), American Samoa (SST), Republic of the Marshall Islands (MHT), Federated States of Micronesia - Chuuk, Yap, Pohnpei, Kosrae (CHUT, YAPT, PONT, KOST), Guam, CNMI (ChST), Republic of Palau (PWT).

Note to All Participants

NOAA will keep this website current with meeting information, as it becomes available. All public comments received, including any associated names, will be captured, public, and maintained by NOAA as part of its administrative record. All comments will be publicly available via regulations.gov. NOAA may end a virtual or in-person meeting before the end time if all participants have concluded their oral comments.

For questions, contact proposed.prinms@noaa.gov

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary System

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks  encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 15 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. Through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA can identify, designate, and protect areas of the marine and Great Lakes environment that have special national significance.

national marine sanctuary system map