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Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

Date of Submission: 12/04/2017
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
United States Department of the Interior
State, Province or Region:
Pacific Islands
Ref.: 6236
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Description

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) is located south of the Hawaiian Island archipelago in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean. The Monument area is approximately 370,000 square nautical miles (1,270,000 square kilometers), or nearly twice the size of the State of Texas. It ranges from Wake Atoll in the northwest to Jarvis Island in the southeast, and also encompasses Baker and Howland Islands, Johnston and Palmyra Atolls, and Kingman Reef. It includes outstanding examples of pristine coral reef and deep sea ecosystems.  It is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense. 

Baker Island                                                    1 N      558207    21403

Howland Island                                                1 N      542473    89677

Jarvis Island                                                    4 M     389087  9958617

Wake Atoll                                                      58 Q    673382  2132592

Johnston Atoll                                                 2 Q      656234  1850416

Palmyra Atoll                                                  3 N      823505  651726

Kingman Reef                                                 3 N      785785  706296

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The seven atolls and islands included within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument are farther from human population centers than any other U.S. area. They represent one of the last frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world, and comprise the most widespread collection of coral reef, seabird, and shorebird protected areas on the planet. This description focuses on natural heritage values, but the site also has important cultural heritage values that may be included in a future nomination.

Criterion (vii): The Monument is home to pristine coral reefs and thriving fish and bird populations.  The Monuments sparkling waters, colorful corals and abundant wildlife create a unique area of natural beauty. 

Criterion (viii):  Significant geological features of the Monument include over 165 submerged seamounts,  mountains rising from the seabed that do not reach the sea surface. These seamounts provide habitat for colonies of deepwater corals that are thousands of years old, and provide an opportunity for identification and discovery of many species not yet known to humans, with possibilities for research, medicines, and other important uses. In addition, much of the Monument is located in the Prime Crust Zone (PCZ) of mineral-rich crusts. The Monument designation protects the Pacific Remote Islands from all commercial extraction, including mining. The site provides crucial baseline information that may be used in the future to protect additional areas from mining and mitigate mining impacts in areas outside the Monument. 

Criterion (x):  Many threatened, endangered, and depleted species thrive in the Monument, including at least 22 species of seabirds, Pisonia forest, sea turtles, pearl oyster, giant clams, reef sharks, coconut crabs, groupers, Napoleon (Maori) wrasse, humphead parrotfish, dolphins, whales, three threatened coral, and some of the most ancient and largest coral colonies and communities on Earth. The Monument provides foraging habitat for several of the world’s largest remaining colonies of sooty terns, lesser frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, red-tailed tropicbirds, and other seabird species. 

The low coral islands and atolls of the Monument are the crests of ancient coral reef caps and massive underlying volcanoes. Coral cover and biodiversity is much higher than in Hawai’i and Florida. From these protected waters, we can gain knowledge that can be applied elsewhere to improve coral reef management in more populated areas. Beyond the shallow fringing reefs and terraces, the slopes of the extinct volcanoes drop off sharply to the deep floor of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The Monument protects near-pristine deep sea areas and open-ocean ecosystems overlaying a diverse seafloor topography and array of benthic and pelagic habitats that support biological communities, including high-density deep-sea coral and sponge communities.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

PRIMNM protects a remote, largely pristine coral reef ecosystem.  Current threats that could affect the global significance of the Monument include climate change (such as coral bleaching and ocean acidification), invasive species and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.  Unlawful activities pose ecological threats and resource integrity concerns. Monument managing partners are working together to address these threats and concerns by exploring various technologies that would allow for remote monitoring and enforcement.

Comparison with other similar properties

The PRIMNM possesses a fish biomass nearly twice the size of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and 16 times that of the main Hawaiian Islands. Kingman Reef has the greatest known fish biomass and proportion of apex predators of any coral reef ecosystem that has been scientifically studied in the world.  Kingman is also one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs and will likely serve as a baseline for future studies of coral reef and microbial communities.