The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has been named as co-trustee to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The area is the largest fully protected conservation area in the US, encompassing 583,000 square miles of ocean, small islands, and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It's home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. It’s also a significant cultural site to Native Hawaiians, containing both historical and spiritual places.
In a press release, OHA Chair Rowena Akana said “We thank President Barack Obama and our partners and supporters for making this a reality. Since our community’s first involvement in the management of these kūpuna island more than a decade ago, the goal has been to get Native Hawaiians a seat at the decision-making table. We understand the challenges ahead and are firmly committed to fulfilling our kuleana to this place and our beneficiaries.”
Gov. David Ige said “Honoring, respecting and perpetuating the Native Hawaiian culture and sustainability are among my administration’s top priorities. OHA has participated in the decision making process since the monument was first designated by President Bush more than ten years ago, and previously, when the area was managed as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. The monument is world renowned for both its natural and cultural attributes and OHA’s co-trustee role will ensure the protection of Native Hawaiian cultural features and provide a critical cultural sensitivity to every decision that is made to protect this unique place.”
OHA joins NOAA, the National Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources as trustees.