LIHUE — As the federal government eyes shrinking some of the United States monuments, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is winning awards in marine conservation.
The marine monument was one of three 2017 award winners for the Marine Conservation Institute’s first annual Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) awards.
Marine monuments were judged on being refuge for various types of rare animals; improving connectivity with other refuges or cover a new area of ocean ecosystem; the size and design; and adequacy of staff and resources.
Strong regulations that exclude overfishing, bottom trawling, mining, drilling and dredging also won points toward a GLORES award.
“The GLORES award gives added recognition to the importance of this unique, treasured place,” said Sheila Sarhangi, campaign director for Expand Papahanaumokuakea. “All of us who worked to safeguard this pu’uhonua (refuge) are very proud.”
Presley Wann, member of the group and Wailua resident, said it’s a great recognition of the Hawaii supporters and leadership that has preserved the place, but the monument still needs more support from the U.S.
“By attempting to roll back and deregulate Papahanaumokuakea, I think it is a threat to the Hawaiian culture as well as to the security of Kauai and the rest of the Hawaiian islands by opening our protective areas,” he said.
The marine monument was established in 2007 to preserve the marine area around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
It became the world’s largest marine protected area after it was expanded to include 582,578 square miles by a proclamation by President Barack Obama on Aug. 26, 2016.
“When you review the science, economics and public support for expansion, all arrows point toward what occurred,” Sarhangi said, “the creation of the largest marine protected area in the world.”
The process of expanding the monument was inspiring for Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who said the expansion “left me with hope for the future.”
“It was hard work to refine the details, but the overwhelming support for the expansion made it possible to find consensus and move forward to protect the Pacific Ocean,” Schatz said.
Acknowledging those who are protecting marine resources is a “momentous moral decision,” he said.
“The time has come to achieve a sustainable coexistence with the rest of life and raise our conservation efforts to a new level,” Schatz said.
MCI created the GLORES awards as a way to build market and reputation incentives for governments around the world to create marine reserves with high levels of protection in the most critical places in the world’s oceans, according to representatives from MCI.
“We believe GLORES awards will speed the creation of strong marine reserves and strengthen the protections in existing ones,” said Lance Morgan, president of MCI.
Of the around 5,000 marine protected areas, marine reserves, and blue parks around the world, Papahanaumokuakea took the award, along with Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary in Columbia and Tubbataha Reefs Nature Park in the Philippines.