Expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument
Current & Proposed Protections
The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) encompasses five management units: Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef, Howland and Baker Islands, and Jarvis Island. In 2009 President George W. Bush established the monument, with protection to 50 nautical miles around each site. In 2014, President Barack Obama expanded three of these five management units (Wake, Johnston and Jarvis) to 200 nautical miles (or the edge of the U.S. EEZ waters). The monument waters are permanently closed to resource extraction, such as deep-sea mining and commercial fishing, and open to limited amounts of permitted recreational fishing.
When President Obama expanded protection for PRIMNM in 2014, the original 50 nautical mile boundary remained in place at two management units (Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef, and Howland and Baker Island), leaving the majority of the waters in the EEZ around these sites open to future exploitation. Nearly a decade later, we know much more about the importance of these areas to the health and resilience of the coral reef and island communities in the monument and the important ecological and cultural value of the area. President Biden has the opportunity to provide additional protection, honor Indigenous cultures and practices, bolster the resilience of these important ocean ecosystems in the face of climate change, and protect marine biodiversity from threats poised to grow in the future, including deep sea mining.
Renaming the Monument
Along with expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, we ask that President Biden honor the area’s unique history and cultural significance with a new name. As Pacific Islanders, we believe that place names are an important way to preserve information about an area’s geology, its history, the natural and supernatural phenomenon specific to it, or its uses by gods and men. We urge the administration to ensure Pacific Islanders are engaged in the process to give this area a name that better reflects its identity, individuality, and importance.
We believe that the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will have the greatest protection when Pacific Island communities are properly represented at the highest levels of the management and decision-making process. As an example, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), which is jointly administered by four co-trustees that includes the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), has been instrumental in establishing avenues for Indigenous communities to participate in ongoing management actions. In that spirit, we are asking that the administration consider a similar resource management structure for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument so that traditional ecological knowledge and modern science can be at the forefront of ongoing and future protections for the Pacific.
An 84-page report by 18 co-authors outlining the cultural and biological significance of the proposed expansion.
May 31, 2022
PRI Coalition sends President Biden a letter asking to expand the boundaries around Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, and Howland and Baker Island to 200 nautical miles and to honor the area with a new name.
Frequently Asked Questions
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. Industrial fishing is also a threat to this area, which can have intense and lasting consequences for a long-lived species like sharks and whales. As a benefit, expanding protection may actually increase catch in waters outside of the boundary. 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 relatively undisturbed areas like PRI are actually more resilient in the face of these changes, and worth protecting as a result.
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.
MPAs are like the national parks of the sea. They protect nature in perpetuity. 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 PRIMNM through the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the President to establish national monuments. Read more here.
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.
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