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Northwestern Hawaiian Islands


The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), the world’s most isolated chain of coral atolls, reefs, and islands, offer a rare glimpse of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems. Stretching 1,200 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, the NWHI provide essential habitat for a multitude of marine species, providing places where they can feed, grow, and breed. More than 7,000 species of algae, marine invertebrates, fish, sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals make up the NWHI’s web of life. The NWHI is home to two species of albatross, Laysan and black-footed, and to more than 14 million other seabirds. Over 90 percent of Hawaii’s green sea turtles return to the beaches of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to nest.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are also home to pristine deep-sea corals found in association with submarine canyons and seamounts that are little-known. To protect the marine ecosystem surrounding the islands, the USA designated the NWHI as a coral reef ecosystem reserve in 2000, and restricted certain kinds of fishing that could damage coral and entangle rare species, such as the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. In 2006, the NWHI were designated as Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.



Ecological Uniqueness
Endangered Species
Protected Areas



Map of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve
Tern Island
State of Hawaii information on NWHI
PBS documentary on NWHI
NOAA Ocean Explorer cruise in NWHI
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary - near NWHI, in the Main Hawaiian Islands
Humpback Whale Sanctuary - Encyclopedia of the Sanctuary



Hawaiian monk seal foraging in deep-sea coral habitat in NWHI




Trailer of the PBS documentary on NWHI

Black-footed albatross. Photo: J. Palmer, NMFS/USFWS

Hawaiian coral reef. Photo: NOAA, James Watt

Hawaiian monk seal. Photo: J. Palmer, NMFS/USFWS

Map of NWHI. Click to enlarge.