EXPLORE the Phoenix Islands Protected Area with this slideshow, check the location map and get all the facts and information below.

Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Phoenix Islands Protected Area

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Location and Values: The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is located in one of the most remote places on Earth, in the middle of the Southern Pacific Ocean.  It covers a vast area of pristine marine habitat (about the same size as Switzerland) including a group of 22 volcanic seamounts, eight of which approach the surface and are capped with coral reefs to form an archipelago of atolls and small reef islands.  The average depth of the ocean is more than 4,500m, and the submerged seamount landscape provides a diversity of marine habitats and serves as a critical stepping stone for migratory and pelagic/planktonic species.  The pristine environment, with its underwater clarity, concentration of marine life, coral reef structures and island seabird colonies is exceptional at a global level.  Furthermore, it provides outstanding opportunities to understand the effects of climate change in the tropical marine environment including the impact of rising sea levels on reef structures and growth rates.

Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report commends the introduction in 2015 of a total ban on all commercial fishing across the entire site.  This is enhancing the pristine wilderness qualities of the site and protecting the large-scale natural ecological processes it supports.  There are, however, concerns over the limited capacity for surveillance and enforcement over such a wide area.  In addition, the threats posed by climate change and the possible accidental introduction of invasive alien species by ships are considered to be significant.  Climate change, in particular, is likely to have multiple impacts including sea level rise and inundation of low-lying parts of the islands, groundwater salinization, ocean acidification and increasingly severe weather events.

Google Earth
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description
Birdlife IBA

Slideshow description

The slideshow ‘tells the story’ of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area with a portfolio of photos that illustrate its landscape features and some of the typical sea-birds and marine life.  It shows some of the low-lying island scenery, with white coral sand beaches backed by low shrubs.  The underwater environment includes diverse coral reef communities as well as numerous charismatic larger species such as various species of sharks, manta rays, green and hawksbill turtles, false killer whale, giant clams and other invertebrates. Some of the typical seabirds featured in the slideshow include frigatebirds, masked and brown boobies, and white (fairy) terns.

The following Flickr photographers and other sources are acknowledged with thanks for their contributions to this slideshow (as credited in the watermark of each photo): Code Blue, IUCNWeb/Cat Halloway, IUCNWeb/Ameer Addulla, Joann94024, Loren Mooney, PhoenixIslands, Roderick Eime and New England Aquarium/Keith Ellenbogen.


Website Category:
Marine & Coastal;
Area: 408,250 km2

Inscribed: 2010

UNESCO Criteria:

  • Outstanding natural beauty (vii);
  • Ecological processes (ix);

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