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Resource Protection and Management

Marine National Monument Established

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument map
Click on map for larger view
Imagine a place where few humans will ever go.

Teddy Roosevelt first declared the area a wildlife refuge in 1909. President Clinton raised the ante in 2000 and named the region the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed the archipelago a marine national monument, the largest conservation area ever designated in the United States. The monument, which dwarfs Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon combined, encompasses almost 140,000 square miles of coral reef habitat and is home to some of the world’s most unique species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else.

What began five years ago as a public process to establish the nation’s 14th national marine sanctuary instead became the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The president’s action resulted in immediate protection for the islands and culminated a sanctuary designation process that began in 2000.  With his proclamation, President Bush entrusted Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and the State of Hawaii with one of the nation’s most valued ocean ecosystems. This unprecedented action demonstrates confidence in the National Marine Sanctuary Program’s capacity to extend its proven formula of partnership and public involvement for ocean governance.  Establishing the monument fulfills one of the objectives for ecosystem-based management called for by the President’s Ocean Action Plan. [Click here for more coverage of the President's proclamation.]

NWHI underwater fish photo

whale rescue from entanglement

Rescue team release an entangled humpback off the Hawaiian islands.. (Photo: NOAA - #932-1489)

Protecting Whales from Ship Strikes and Marine Debris

Each year thousands of whales and other marine mammals fall victim to entanglement or ship strikes. Many of them die. But NOAA staff and volunteers, who dedicate thousands of hours to ocean stewardship, continue to play a key role in whale rescues and marine debris clean-up. Staff research into reducing ship strikes to endangered whales in Stellwagen Bank paid off in a big way when the International Maritime Organization approved a shift in shipping lanes in the region. The move will reduce strikes to critically endangered right whales by up to 58 percent and to other whale species by up to 81 percent. Click here for more in-depth coverage.

In Hawai`i, whale rescue experts from NOAA Fisheries and the sanctuary program untangled two humpback whales from gill net and marine debris. Among the numerous marine debris removal efforts around the sanctuaries, the program partially funded Hawai`i Wildlife Fund volunteers to remove approximately 42 tons of marine debris from the Waiohinu-Ka Lae coast off Hawai`i's Big Island, and divers in Olympic Coast sanctuary waters removed derelict fishing gear.

whale swimming near large tanker vessel

Recent decision by the International Maritime Organization will reduce collisions with whales. (Photo: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary file photo - #981-1707)

Progress Made Protecting Sanctuary Marine Life

The Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Final Management Plan was released to the public in July. The plan updates sanctuary science, enforcement, and education programs and includes a few regulatory changes that are intended to enhance conservation with compatible public and private uses. The plan includes two changes – anchoring is prohibited in the sanctuary, and fishing is allowed only with rod and reel, handline, and spearfishing gear without powerheads. Similar management plan reviews are underway for Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Flower Garden Banks, Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay and Stellwagen Bank national marine sanctuaries. Proposed marine reserves are under consideration for Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. These plans help the program fulfill its primary legislative mandate of resource protection.

Major Response Drill Held off San Francisco Bay

Last August, NOAA staff and federal and state partners held one of the largest ocean emergency drills of its kind in Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries. Known as Safe Seas 2006, the drill, which simulated a collision between two vessels and the resulting oil spill, looked at ways agencies can improve their ability to quickly respond to an oil spill or similar catastrophe.

Oil skimmer vessel

The OSRV Pacific Responder, an oil spill response vessel, practices deployment of a boom. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard) Inset: Biodegradable drift cards simulated spilled pollutants. (Photo: NOAA)

Damage Settlement to Help Habitat Restoration

The owners of the foreign-flagged container vessel Med Taipei agreed to pay $3.25 million to the United States, the largest sum awarded to date for damages within Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The settlement resolves a case whereby 15 containers from the Med Taipei were lost in sanctuary waters in 2004 and resulted in long-term injury to sanctuary resources. The funds will be used for resource protection and to restore habitats within the sanctuary, an area of high biological productivity and diversity.

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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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