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The unknown gems of the Pacific: The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

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Pacific Remote Islands

Pacific Remote Islands
Photo by: TNC/Kydd Pollock

“The first time you jump in the water there, you are just blown away,” says Dr. Alan Friedlander, marine biologist at the University of Hawai‘i. “You see the diversity of life and the scale of what nature looks like in the absence of people.”

He’s speaking of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM). Located about 1,000 miles south and west from Hawai‘i, the Monument protects the marine habitats of five uninhabited island or atoll complexes: Wake, Jarvis, Howland and Baker Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll.

“They’re just little specs out there in the ocean but they are these amazing gems that hardly anyone knows anything about,” he adds.

Pacific Remote Islands
Photo by: USFWS

In 2009, President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument with protections to 50 nautical miles. In 2014, President Barack Obama expanded three out of the five sites, Wake, Johnston and Jarvis, from 50 to 200 nautical miles from shore. Taken together, the expanded boundaries protect 490,000 square miles of ocean prohibiting all commercial fishing and deep sea mining, while allowing for sustainable recreational and noncommercial fishing.

Now, this area is under direct threat by the Trump administration. In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to review the protections of our nation’s land and sea monuments, including the Pacific Remote Islands. If the president decides to act upon this review, he could attempt to allow commercial fishing and other harmful industrial practices in the monument.

Pacific Remote Islands
Photo by: TNC/Andrew Wright

Why does this matter? The longline fishing industry catches and kills large numbers of marine animals, including sharks, albatross, sea turtles, and even marine mammals like dolphins. In 2016, for example, the Hawai‘i-based fleet set more than 48 million baited hooks total while fishing for bigeye tuna, and caught about 100,000 sharks while doing so.

The area is nothing short of spectacular—and it should stay that way. The expansion specifically increased protections to include approximately 132 additional seamounts or undersea mountains. These mountains are ripe with undiscovered life. Scientists estimate that up to 44-percent of the species on a seamount or seamount group are found nowhere else on Earth. What’s more, the migratory paths and feeding grounds for five species of protected turtles, including the endangered leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley turtles are found within the monument. Plus, the area 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.

Pacific Remote Islands
Photo by: TNC/Kydd Pollock

The ocean is in peril. The world’s fisheries are already 90% fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted. Leading marine scientists agree that at least 30% of the ocean needs to be set aside in marine reserves to protect fish populations and keep ecosystems healthy. With no residents and a thriving marine ecosystem, the Pacific Remote Islands is an ideal place for such protection—and that’s why two presidents took action to keep it off-limits to industrial extraction.

The PRIMNM makes up one of the last places on Earth with an unsullied, healthy, thriving ocean ecosystem. Please sign this petition to urge President Trump to leave existing protections in place for the Pacific Remote Islands.

Go to to learn more.

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