Native Hawaiians believe the word Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced pa-pa-hah-now-mo-koo-ah-keh-ah) refers to a sacred area from which all life springs, including the creation of the Hawaiian Islands. In recognition of its cultural and ecological significance, Papahānaumokuākea is the Hawaiian name of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, which was established by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006.
Listen to the correct pronounciation of Papahānaumokuākea, and learn more about its meaning.
These islands stretch for 1,200 miles across the north-central Pacific Ocean to form an archipelago of uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals and atolls. The archipelago is one of the most remote and relatively undisturbed coral reef systems in the world, and it supports an astonishing array of marine life. Unlike most places in the world, sharks and other large predators are abundant here, providing an important research area for ecologists.
In an historic action, in June 2006, the Bush administration agreed to phase out commercial fishing and other potentially destructive activities in these islands, establishing, at the time, the most expansive no-take marine reserve on Earth. The 140,000-square mile Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument is larger than 100 Yosemite National Parks, slightly larger than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and larger than all the national parks in the United States combined.
The administration’s decision to protect this special place was a landmark event, capping more than a century of efforts by a succession of U.S. presidents who recognized the conservation values of this area.
Josh Reichert, executive vice president of Pew, and ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau discuss the significance of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
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