U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Midway Atoll
National Wildlife Refuge

About 1,200 miles northwest of
Honolulu, HI   
E-mail: Matt_D_Brown@fws.gov
Phone Number: 808-674-8237
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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  Wildlife and Habitat

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Midway's sandy coral islands formed as minute particles of coral, broken shells, and lime skeletons of tiny creatures accumulated within the reef. Once these sand spits emerged at low tides, the winds took over to sculpt them into dunes that the high tides could not cover. Today, Midway Atoll consists of Sand, Eastern, and Spit Islands plus their encircling protective coral reef.

In the late 1800s, Midway's islands were low expanses of shifting white sand, dotted with bunchgrasses and low shrubs. Placed under U.S. Navy control in 1903, Midway's landscape began to change. The major developer was the Navy, which began its efforts by dredging a channel through the southern reef between Eastern and Sand Islands in 1938. Construction of a Naval Air Station on Eastern Island and submarine and seaplane bases on San Island brought major changes to the islands.

With the closure of Midway's Naval Air Station, the atoll has been transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Now Midway's landscape is again changing. Many of the buildings constructed since the 1950s have been torn down, some of the ironwood trees and other exotic vegetation are being removed, and more open expanses of land are again available for nesting seabirds.

The refuge provides nesting habitat for 15 species, totaling over 2 million sea birds, including the Laysan albatross and black-footed albatross.

The waters surrounding Midway have been closed to commercial fishing for over 60 years, thus protecting over 260 species of coral, fish, and other marine life. Other marine species include the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, threatened green turtles, and spinner dolphins. More than 250 species of fish swim within the lagoon, including abundant and colorful coral fish.

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