Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a fully-protected conservation area encompassing nearly 583,000 square miles of ocean waters and coral reefs, including ten islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Much of the monument is made up of pelagic and deepwater habitats, with notable features such as seamounts and submerged banks, extensive coral reefs and lagoons.
Papahānaumokuākea is home to over 7,000 oceanic and wildlife species, one quarter of which are endemic to Northwestern Hawai’i. Prominent species include the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the Laysan and Nihoa finches, the Nihoa millerbird, Laysan duck, Laysan albatross seabirds, numerous species of native plants as well as arthropod creatures.
On August 26, 2016 President Obama signed a proclamation expanding the monument to 582,578 square miles — twice the size of Texas, almost as large as the Gulf of Mexico, becoming the world’s largest fully-protected conservation area.
Papahānaumokuākea has deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture, as an ancestral environment, as an embodiment of the Hawaiian concept of kinship between people and the natural world, and as the place where it is believed that life originates and to where the spirits return after death.
On two of the islands, Nihoa and Makumanamana, there are ancient Hawaiian; Polynesian archaeological remains relating to pre-European, pre-western invasion and occupied settlement. The ceremonial sites on Mokumanamana are believed to compose the highest concentration of heiau in the Hawaiian archipelago, with fifty-two known archaeological sites.