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Our Proposal

Photo Credit: Palmyra Atoll lagoon by Kydd Pollock TNC

Expand protections for the Pacific Remote Islands

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 protections for the Pacific Remote Islands, we are asking to 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 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 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.

Our Progress

June 2024

13th Festival of Pacific Arts engagement and re-naming sessions

May 2023

Public Comment is now open for the proposed sanctuary designation of the Pacific Remote Islands. Join the public meetings in Honolulu (May 10), Hilo ), (May 11), Guan (May 17), Saipan (May 18), Rota (May 19), Tinian (May 20), or American Samoa (May 24), or submit your comments online or by mail by June 2.

Submit Comments

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.

Get full information on NOAA Sanctuary website

March 21, 2023

President Biden supports advancing the process for a PRI sanctuary designation.

Watch the White House Broadcast on YouTube
Read the media release (PDF)

March 2023

PRI Coalition submits National Marine Sanctuary nomination to NOAA.

Read the Nomination [PDF]

February 27, 2023

Letter from PRI Coalition submitted to President Biden expressing openness to other pathways for protection of PRI.

Read the Letter (PDF).

September 23, 2022

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino sends President Biden a letter supporting the expansion of PRIMNM as proposed by the PRI Coalition.

Read the Letter [PDF]

June 13, 2022

The Honolulu Star Advertiser endorses the expansion of PRIMNM.

Read the Article (PDF).

June 8, 2022

Governor Ige from the state of Hawaii sends President Biden a letter supporting the expansion of PRIMNM as proposed by the PRI Coalition.

Read the Letter [PDF]

May 31, 2022

Congressman Ed Case sends President Biden a letter supporting the expansion of PRIMNM as proposed by the PRI Coalition.

Read the Letter [PDF]

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.

Read the Letter [PDF]

September 25, 2014

President Obama expanded Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll and Jarvis Island — from 50 to 200 nautical miles. The existing, 50-mile protection around Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, as well as Howland and Baker islands, did not change.

Read the proclamation

January 6, 2009

President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument,
with protections around each of the five management units to 50 nautical miles.

Read the proclamation

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
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