Environmental Policy News

US Department of Commerce Announces Plan to Initiate Process to Designate Marine Sanctuary in Pacific Remote Islands

Expanding Protections for Pacific Remote Islands Toward Goal of Conserving 30% of US Ocean by 2030.

Following President Biden’s call to action at the White House Conservation in Action Summit and a Presidential Memorandum issued, the Commerce Department directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to initiate a process to consider designating all US waters around the Pacific Remote Islands as a national marine sanctuary. A sanctuary designation would provide additional layers of protection for the region’s important marine ecosystems, maritime heritage resources, and support the cultural heritage and values of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

“Fulfilling our bold conservation goals are a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and the Commerce Department,” said US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Our National Marine Sanctuary System is critical to achieving these goals, as well as honoring the cultural heritage of coastal communities around the country. As President Biden noted, expanding protections for the Pacific Remote Islands would create the largest protected ocean area on the planet.”

The Pacific Remote Islands Coalition nominated an area totaling about 770,000 square miles for sanctuary designation. That area includes the existing as well as the submerged lands and waters surrounding the existing Monument to the limit of the US Exclusive Economic Zone. The Pacific Remote Islands encompass seven islands, atolls, and a reef unit: Baker, Howland, Jarvis, Johnston, Wake, Palmyra, and Kingman.

Vulnerable to climate change impacts, the atolls, shoals, seamounts, banks, and reefs in this unique and fragile area are home to some of the most diverse and remarkable tropical marine life on the planet and provides haven for a host of species from corals and fish to marine mammals and seabirds.

“Ecosystems and cultural resources of the Pacific Remote Islands are increasingly under pressure from threats such as marine debris, invasive species, and climate change,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “The proposed sanctuary would also recognize the importance of Indigenous knowledge, stories, and cultural connections between lands and peoples, and celebrate distinct cultures.”

Sanctuary designation would allow NOAA to augment the existing protections for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument with additional regulatory and non-regulatory tools, and to conserve additional areas beyond the Monument’s existing boundary. The sanctuary designation would not include any terrestrial areas or diminish the protections of the existing monument designations.

Within the next 30 days, NOAA will issue a Notice of Intent (NOI) to begin the public scoping process to initiate designation of a national marine sanctuary in the Pacific Remote Islands.

Following the President’s direction, the Commerce Department and the Department of the Interior will also conduct a public process to work with regional Indigenous cultural leaders to appropriately rename the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and potentially the Islands themselves, to honor the area’s heritage, ancestral pathways, and stopping points for Pacific Island voyagers, and to provide posthumous recognition for young Native Hawaiian men sent to secure US territorial claim to the islands in the run up to World War II.

Our Partners

Frontiers in Marine Science

ECO Magazine is a marine science trade publication committed to bringing scientists and professionals the latest ground-breaking research, industry news, and job opportunities from around the world.


8502 SW Kansas Ave
Stuart, FL 34997


Newsletter Signup

The ECO Newsletter is a weekly email featuring the Top 10 stories of the past seven days, providing readers with a convenient way to stay abreast on the latest ocean science and industry news.