Ten Years of Protection, Five Years of Research: Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology Celebrates its Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research Partnership
Honolulu, HI – Last week, managers from the 43 marine sites on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) met in Hawai‘i to explore ways of strengthening marine conservation. This engagement also coincided with the official inscription ceremony for the new Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument World Heritage site. The manager’s visit included an afternoon at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) touring the facilities and learning about the science that has been an important component of the research partnership with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
This has been a year of important milestones for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (also known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), not only marking the 10th anniversary of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, and the recent inscription on the World Heritage list, but also the 5th anniversary of the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research Partnership. Ten years ago, President Clinton created the single largest nature preserve ever established in the United States, setting a new global standard for coral reef and wildlife protection. This protection was further enhanced in 2006 when President George W. Bush overlaid the area as a national monument. Today, close to 140 thousand square miles of coral reef ecosystem are protected. Since 2005, HIMB has been an integral part of this process providing ecosystem-based science to help inform the management decisions of this unique ecosystem. The research partnership has also directly influenced policy through rule changes like the introduction of legislation to change harvest regulations for ‘opihi (a saltwater limpet).
Celebrating the 5th anniversary of this partnership, both managers and scientists continue to work together offering research support and new scientific knowledge for ecosystem-based management. Scientists are working to characterize the marine resources in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, determining levels of coral health, and monitoring ecosystem threats such as climate change. Dr. Jo-Ann Leong, director of HIMB refers to the partnership as a, “highly productive partnership that has not only made huge advances in science, but demonstrates what can be accomplished when scientists and managers work together”. She also adds “we have been incredibly productive in the last five years, generating ten science reports and hosting four large research symposiums”.
This partnership has not only been beneficial for scientists and managers, but has provided amazing learning opportunities for students. Over 55 students at HIMB have either received funding, research support, or student internships related to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands research. Both formal education and informal community programs have also been central to the partnership objectives, as demonstrated by the long running community education course at HIMB showcasing the science of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with hands on labs. From 2007-2010 the partnership has participated in numerous community events reaching over 20,000 people. Whether it is education, or directly informing management decision making, good science is essential to the effective management of large marine ecosystems, as demonstrated by the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research Partnership. And with so many milestones to celebrate this year, big congratulations are in order.
Photos available in the full press release here: Ten Years of Protection