An ‘A’a (brown-footed booby) soared across the deep ocean surrounding the Pacific Remote Islands.
During my three-week journey aboard the exploration vessel Nautilus around Johnston Atoll (Kalama/Moku Kua‘au ‘o Ionatana), I saw ocean currents moving together, creating swells that looked perfect for paddling canoe. The pronounced aokū (rain clouds) encircling the halawai (horizon) showered rain and stilled the ocean. The moon rises and sunsets moved in unison while ‘A‘a (brown-footed boobies) flew across the winds in groups to catch squid and other food provided by the ocean.
As a Native Hawaiian woman, I recognized the intimate relationship we have with the Pacific Remote Islands (PRI) through voyaging, food acquisition and cultural practices. The currents and swells showed me how we voyaged across these oceans in wa‘a; the abundance of manu kai (ocean birds) informed me of the seaways where food was present; and my nā kilo ‘āina (environmental observations) helped me recognize changes in the moon phases, rains and currents.
As a science communication fellow during the expedition, I saw the importance of meaning fully sharing our deep ocean seascapes. By providing scientific and cultural information to our international audience, we offered a firsthand look of why we need to ensure protection for future generations.
Johnston Atoll is part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which protects these waters from harmful human activities like sea-bed mining and industrial fishing. In 2014, these protections were expanded by the Obama administration, extending 200 nautical miles from shore for some—but not all—waters of the monument.
Expanding the monument boundaries of Howard and Baker Islands, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll from 50 to 200 nautical miles would allow us to sustain the health and wellness of these waters for our future.
Additionally, as we advocate for more ocean protections, it is imperative to give the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument a name that honors the genealogy of the ocean and reflects the diverse indigenous peoples connected to these spaces. We have seen name changes before: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was renamed within a year of receiving federal environmental and cultural protection. Papahānaumokuākea speaks to the relationship between the earth mother (Papahānaumoku) and the sky father (Wākea) and much more.