Marine National Monument Program

Marine National Monument Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Marine National Monuments are designated to protect and conserve areas of the marine environment

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Why were the Monuments established and what are the benefits?

The Monuments were created to protect the abundant and diverse coral, fish and seabird populations; to facilitate exploration and scientific research and to promote public education regarding the value of these national treasures. The establishment of the Monuments provides the opportunity to protect areas of outstanding scientific, cultural, conservation and aesthetic value, and provide for the long-term persistence of these natural and cultural legacies. By designating these areas of the Pacific Ocean as Marine National Monuments, the United States ensures that the marine environments receive the highest level of environmental recognition and conservation.

How were the Monuments established?

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the President is authorized to reserve lands and waters of the United States as National Monuments.

What is a Marine Protected Area?

A Marine Protected Area, often referred to as an MPA is a general term describing an area of the marine environment with some level of protection. MPA Executive Order 13158 defines an MPA as:

"...any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein."

In practice, MPAs are defined areas where natural and/or cultural resources are given greater protection than the surrounding waters. In the U.S., MPAs span a range of habitats including the open ocean, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, estuaries and the Great Lakes. They vary widely in purpose, legal authorities, agencies, management approaches, level of protection and restrictions on human uses.

What is the difference between a National Marine Sanctuary and a Marine National Monument?

The main difference between National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments is the designation process and the laws under which they are established. Sanctuaries are designated by the Secretary of Commerce, through NOAA, under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA). The NMSA requires extensive public process, local community engagement, stakeholder involvement and citizen participation, both prior to and following designation.

Monuments are designated by Presidential Proclamation, via the Antiquities Act of 1906. The Act is straightforward, and provides broad power to set aside public areas for protection, and requires no public process. However the public is able to provide input through the National Environmental Policy Act process and NOAA encourages public input during the development of management plans.

What is the difference between an Marine Protected Area and a Monument?

A Marine National Monument is a type of Marine Protected Area designated by Presidential Proclamation.

What funding is available for research within the Monuments?

NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office announces annual funding competitions, including the Marine National Monuments Grant Competition. For more information on all of our funding opportunities, click here.  For more information on past awards, our Federal Programs Office Annual Report can be found here.

WOW Facts: Did You Know?

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In total, the four monuments (Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, Rose Atoll and Papahanaumokuakea) encompass over 330,000 square miles of water.

The designation of the three Pacific Marine National Monuments (Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll) in 2009 was the largest act of marine conservation in history.

The Pacific Remote Islands are farther from any human population center than anywhere else in the United States.

The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument contains the deepest ocean canyon and the largest active submarine volcanoes on earth.

One of the most striking features of Rose Atoll is the pink hue of the fringing reef caused by the dominance of coralline algae, which is the primary reef-building species in shallow depths.

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is home to over 14 million breeding and nesting seabirds which inhabit less than 6 square miles of land.

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