About the Refuge

Reef and fish

Located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu, Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 by the Secretary of the Interior. It was expanded in 2009 and includes submerged lands out to 12 nautical miles from the island. The refuge includes 429,853 acres, of which 1,273 acres are terrestrial and 428,580 acres are submerged. 

Jarvis Island is the crest of an ancient coral reef cap and massive underlying extinct volcano, emerging from the deep ocean floor of the equatorial Pacific. The equatorial undercurrent deflects off the western flank of the seamount, pushing nutrient-rich waters up into the sunlit zone, thereby increasing marine productivity and benefiting many species of marine life. This important phenomenon may be limited only to Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands because of their steepness and location on the equator. The upwelling is especially strong at Jarvis because of its larger size, supporting continuous mats of soft corals and large schools of plankton-eating fish.

Shallow fringing reefs surround the island, but a broad submerged reef terrace extends off the eastern shoreline, dominated by moosehorn and rose corals. Live coral covers about 50 percent of the reef terrace, and about 62 species of corals, including 59 stony species, have been reported at Jarvis through 2006. Table and staghorn corals are rare but increasing.

The island is uninhabited, and entry is by permit only. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel visit Jarvis about every 2 to 3 years, though occasionally scientists and researchers team up to share high transportation costs to the island. Jarvis is accessible only by ship.