HONOLULU (AP) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering additional protections for waters off the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
NOAA announced the proposal to designate oceanic areas of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which is already one of the largest protected natural areas in the world, as a national marine sanctuary on Friday. The agency opened the plan to public comment through January.
The designation would build on existing protections meant to maintain marine habitats and wildlife. The new rules would apply only to oceanic areas, not the islands that are already part of the monument.
“Papahānaumokuākea’s ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from threats such as marine debris, invasive species, and climate change,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement. “Designation of the monument’s waters as a national marine sanctuary would complement the efforts of the four co-trustees to safeguard the monument’s natural, cultural, and historic values.”
NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Hawaii and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs currently co-manage the monument.
Papahānaumokuākea is larger than all other U.S. national parks combined and is home to endangered Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, seabirds and extensive coral reef ecosystems. The area is home to many species found nowhere else on Earth.