Masked AngelfishThe Waikiki Aquarium’s new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exhibition opened Aug. 18, offering Oahu visitors a chance to see some of the state’s rarest marine treasures.

A fragile collection of atolls, reefs, shoals and small islands that begins nearly 150 miles northwest of Kauai and stretches across 1,200 miles of the Pacific, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which can be found nowhere else on Earth. The highly remote region is also essentially off-limits to most travelers.

“The new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exhibit not only continues our mission to inspire and promote understanding, appreciation and conservation of Pacific marine life, but it also allows visitors to experience some of the rarity that the Marine National Monument boasts,” said the aquarium’s director, Andrew Rossiter. “Many of the species on display are abundant around the northwestern Hawaiian Islands but are extremely rare or absent around the main Hawaiian Islands.”

Completed at a cost of $350,000, the new exhibition space consists of 4,400 gallons’ worth of aquarium displays, featuring rare masked angelfish, bandit angelfish, Japanese pygmy angelfish and table corals. Information regarding the region’s significance, ecological biodiversity and challenges facing its preservation is also presented on interactive video touch screens.

Papahanaumokuakea was designated a National Monument by President Bush in 2006 and named a United Nations World Heritage Site in 2010, one of just 26 mixed Unesco sites on the planet.

Opened in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is the third-oldest in the U.S. and home to more than 500 marine species, including endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals.

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