Protecting Papahānaumokuākea

Author: Evan Pascual

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a place of scientific, historical, and cultural significance. On May 30th, 2017, Maui Ocean Center, Mayor Alan Arakawa, and supporters of the Monument unveiled the Papahānaumokuākea Gallery, a new exhibit that offers a glimpse into the world’s largest Marine National Monument.

Papahanaumokuakea Gallery Blessing
Left to right: Tapani Vuori (General Manager, Maui Ocean Center), Seth Horstmeyer (The Pew Charitable Trusts), and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

The Papahānaumokuākea Gallery pays homage to Hawaiian heritage while portraying the scope and importance of the Monument. The Gallery includes a walk-around topographic map, the story behind its name, and a photo collection of marine life, seabirds, and newly discovered species. The Gallery celebrates the alliance between cultural, community, and scientific leaders that are working together to protect the Monument’s boundaries.

Photo collection
Photo collection courtesy of Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager

The creation of the Gallery was a collaborative effort between Maui Ocean Center, Sol Kaho‘ohalahala (Native Hawaiian Kupuna representative for the Reserve Advisory Council of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument), The Pew Charitable Trusts, NOAA, and County of Maui.

“We are honored and privileged at the Maui Ocean Center to share the importance of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with our guests,” said Tapani Vuori, General Manager of the Maui Ocean Center, “Not only is it significant for its scientific value and preservation of the marine ecosystem, but it also has tremendous importance historically and culturally.”

Topographic Map

President Bush signed a proclamation establishing the Monument in 2006, and in 2010 the Monument was inscribed as a natural and cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. On August 26, 2016, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding the Monument’s boundaries from 140,000 square miles to 582,578 square miles. Today, Papahānaumokuākea is the largest protected area on Earth and is nearly the size of the Gulf of Mexico.

The creation of the Papahānaumokuākea Gallery coincides with President Trump’s signing of Executive Orders to review the national monuments created under the Antiquities Act, an action that could reduce Papahānaumokuākea and other Pacific monuments. As part of the review, a comment period was opened to the public on May 11th and will end on July 10th. The Papahānaumokuākea Gallery includes a station for visitors to submit statements regarding the future of the Pacific monuments. Click here to submit your comments during the review period.

The opening ceremony of the Papahānaumokuākea Gallery included a blessing by Kahu Dane Maxwell and an appearance by Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Mayor Alan Arakawa and Sol Kaho'ohalahala
Left to right: Sol Kaho‘ohalahala (Native Hawaiian Kupuna representative for the Reserve Advisory Council of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument) and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

“I encourage all to come out to Maui Ocean Center to see images of species and ecosystems that very few people in the world will ever see,” said Mayor Arakawa, “The Papahānaumokuākea Gallery captures the pristine essence of life and nature in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and why it is so critical for us to keep current protections in place.”

The Papahānaumokuākea Gallery is officially open to Aquarium guests and is located at the end of the Open Ocean tunnel. Vuori added, “The ability to bring this otherwise unseen Monument to the public where everyone can experience its beauty and appreciate its value today and for future generations is critical for its long-term protection.”

Papahanaumokuakea Gallery

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