SOURCE: Marine Conservation Biology Institute
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), the world’s most isolated chain of coral atolls, reefs, and islands, represent a rare glimpse at one of the only intact marine ecosystems in existence today. Stretching more than 1000 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, the NWHI contain a large percentage of all coral reefs found within the waters of the United States. These reefs play an instrumental role in oceanic dynamics by providing essential habitat for marine organisms to develop, forage and breed. More than 7000 species of algae, fishes, marine invertebrates, sea turtles and marine mammals comprise the flourishing web of life found in the NWHI. In this remote location more than 14 million sea birds and over 90% of Hawaii’s green sea turtle population return to these unique islands each year to breed and nest. Although protected by remoteness, nets and lines from thousands of tons of derelict fishing gear washed ashore by currents, entangle and drown a myriad of these rare species including the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Found only in Hawaii, the Hawaiian monk seal wholly depends upon the health of this coral reef ecosystem for its survival.