The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (aka Papahānaumokuākea is a World Heritage site and United States National Monument encompassing 140,000 square miles (360,000 km2) of ocean waters, including ten islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is internationally recognized for both its cultural and natural values as follows:
"The area 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 archaeological remains relating to pre-European settlement and use. 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. It is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world."
The area was proclaimed the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006; it was renamed Papahānaumokuākea in 2007, and inscribed on the World Heritage list as Papahānaumokuākea in 2010, at the 34th Session of the World Heritage Committee, Brasilia.
Although it is not a sanctuary, the ocean area is part of a system of 13 National Marine Sanctuaries administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The monument supports 7,000 species, one quarter of which are endemic. Prominent species include the threatened Green Sea Turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the Laysan and Nihoa Finches, the Nihoa Millerbird, Laysan Duck, seabirds such as the Laysan Albatross, numerous species of plants including Pritchardia palms, and many species of arthropods. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, populations of lobster have not recovered from extensive harvesting in the 1980s and 1990s, which is now banned; the remaining fisheries are overfished.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reports that many species populations have not yet fully recovered from a large-scale shift in the oceanographic ecosystem regime that affected the North Pacific during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This shift reduced populations of some important species such as spiny lobster, seabirds and Hawaiian monk seals; the proclamation calls for a commercial fishing phase-out by 2011. The monument will receive strict conservation protection, with exceptions for traditional Native Hawaiian uses and limited tourism.