Currently, there is little fishing activity in the waters proposed for expanded protection. The longliners have exhausted their quota every year since the PRI boundaries were expanded in 2014, and a tiny fraction of the Hawaii longline fishing effort comes from the area. The area accounts for less than 5% of effort and catch for the purse seine fleet. In four of the last six years, the area accounted for less than 0.5% of purse seine effort.
Although there isn’t currently a lot of human activity or exploitation in the area, mining interests have identified PRI’s waters as a high value, and therefore high interest area. Deep-sea mining involves complete removal of the top layer of sediment, resulting in total mortality of deep-sea benthic organisms and the creation of toxic wastewater tailings with widespread impacts on mid-water pelagic communities, including tuna. Overfishing also poses a threat to PRI, though expanding protection may actually increase catch in surrounding waters where fishing would still be allowed. The final threat to PRI is a global one – climate change. There is clear proof that the ocean is hotter, more acidic and rising. But areas like PRI may actually be more resilient in the face of these changes, and worth protecting as a result.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” MPAs like PRI are open to cultural practice including sustenance (non-commercial) fishing.
President Biden can expand protection for PRI through the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.
The Pacific Remote Islands are approximately 1500 miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, close to the equator.
Currently, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument covers approximately 1.27 million sq km. The proposed expansion would add approximately 685,000 sq km, making the monument the largest highly protected marine protected area in the world.
The exclusive economic zone is the zone where the U.S. and other coastal nations have jurisdiction over natural resources, conservation, and exploration. It extends 200 nautical miles from land that is U.S. territory.
PRI is home to many endangered species including:
- 50+ seabird species
- 15 endangered/vulnerable shark and ray species
- 20 dolphin and whale species
- 5 turtle species (4 endangered)
- Ancient deep-sea corals and resilient shallow reefs
- Deep sea species found nowhere else on earth
More than 130 young men, mostly Native Hawaiian, made up the Hui Panalā’au. Sent to Howland, Baker and Jarvis from 1935-1942, they enabled the U.S. to claim jurisdiction of this area in the Pacific. In their service, three young men – Carl Kahalewai, Joseph Keli‘ihananui, and Richard “Dickey” Whaley – lost their lives. For more information, click here.