Marine National Monuments in the Pacific

Marine National Monuments are designated to protect and conserve some of the last remaining relatively pristine ocean ecosystems.

Close-up of corals.

About the Marine National Monuments

There are four Marine National Monuments within the Pacific Islands region: The Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments, established by Presidential Proclamation 8337 in January 2009; and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established by Presidential Proclamation 8031 in June 2006 and expanded in August 2016.

The Monuments were created to protect the respective areas' abundant and diverse coral, fish, and seabird populations; facilitate exploration and scientific research; and promote public education regarding the value of these national treasures.

The establishment of the Monuments provides the opportunity to protect areas of outstanding resource biodiversity and  scientific, cultural, and aesthetic value, and provide for the long-term persistence of these natural and cultural legacies. By designating these areas of the Pacific Ocean as Marine National Monuments, the United States ensures that the marine environments receive the highest level of environmental recognition and conservation.

NOAA Fisheries, in cooperation with various partnering agencies, coordinates the development of management plans, scientific exploration, and research programs within the Marine National Monuments in the Pacific Islands region.

Under NOAA's existing authorities and the Antiquities Act of 1906 (which authorizes the U.S. President to reserve lands and waters of the nation as National Monuments), the Marine National Monument Program works with federal and regional partners and stakeholders to conserve and protect the marine resources in these large marine protected areas.

Management

Marine National Monuments map: four monuments color-coded

Marine National Monuments of the Pacific Map

NOAA's Marine National Monument Program co-manages the three Pacific Marine National Monuments created by Presidential Proclamations in 2009, as well as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The three 2009 Monuments encompass a total area of 600,684 square miles (1,555,764 square kilometers) and include the Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments.

With the expanded Papahānaumokuākea Monument, the total area for the U.S. Marine National
Monuments in the Pacific is 1,182, 717 square miles (3, 063, 223 square kilometers).

NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — in cooperation with the Commonwealth of the
Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa governments for the Marianas Trench and Rose Atoll Monuments, respectively — maintain management responsibility for the Marine National Monuments. 

The Monument managers are developing management plans for these magnificent marine protected areas to guide their continued protection.

Marine National Monuments Versus Marine Protected Areas Versus Sanctuaries  

A marine protected area, or MPA, is a general term describing an area of the marine environment with some level of protection. Executive Order 13158 defines an MPA as:

"...any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein."

The main difference between MPAs, National Marine Sanctuaries, and Marine National Monuments is the designation process and the laws under which they're established:

  • MPAs are designated through local, state, or federal authorities in response to proposals.
  • Sanctuaries are designated through the National Marine Sanctuary Act process.
  • Monuments are designated by Presidential Proclamation via the Antiquities Act, which provides the President broad power to set aside public areas for protection.

Learn more about Marine Protected Areas >

Funding and Research Within the Monuments

The Pacific Islands Regional Office announces annual funding competitions, including the Marine National Monuments Grant Competition.

Quick Facts

  • In total, the four monuments encompass over 1,062,728 square miles of ocean.
  • The designation of the three Pacific Marine National Monuments (Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll) in 2009 was the largest act of marine conservation in U.S. history.
  • The Pacific Remote Islands are farther from any human population center than anywhere else in the United States.
  • The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument contains the deepest ocean canyon and the largest active submarine volcanoes on Earth.
  • One of the most striking features of Rose Atoll is the pink hue of the fringing reef caused by the dominance of coralline algae, which is the primary reef-building species in shallow depths.
  • The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is home to over 14 million breeding and nesting seabirds, which inhabit less than 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers) of land.
  • In July 2015, a 3-year Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds began when the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer started exploring the four U.S. MPAs in Hawaiʻi, Mariana Islands, American Samoa Archipelagos, and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, managed by the Kiribati Government. The project mapped over 100,000 square kilometers of seafloor was mapped, hundreds of terabytes of data collected, and new species discovered.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Regional Office on August 18, 2018