Mokupāpapa Discovery Center Open Despite Government Shutdown

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Despite the federal government shutdown, the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center (MDC) in Hilo remains open to the public. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the national nonprofit partner for the National Marine Sanctuary System, is ensuring staffing of the center and continuing operations during the shutdown.

Visitors enjoy one of Mokupāpapa Discovery Center’s aquarium displays. PC: Andy Collins/NOAA.

“Education and community engagement is a critical component of successful marine conservation efforts,” said Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “It is important to keep Mokupāpapa Discovery Center open for the hundreds of weekly visitors, school children and seniors who enjoy the exhibits and displays while learning about Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.”

MDC is the interpretive facility for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site. The center features exhibits about Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the newest display includes more than 50 pieces of artwork from the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Artist-at-Sea program and 23 pieces of art by Rama the elephant and local artist Calley O’Neill in “The Rama Exhibition,” an interspecies exhibition of art and ecology.

Since 2003 more than 700,000 visitors have learned about the unique natural and cultural features of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands through the center’s exhibits, artwork, 3,500 gallon aquarium, hosted presentations and films, interactive exhibits, and guided tours. The center is located on the Hilo Bayfront at 76 Kamehameha Ave., is free to the public, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 4 p.m.


As the busiest season for school groups, MDC continues to host students and seniors from kindergarten through elders. In the first week of this year, the center hosted more than 100 students, with similar or higher numbers projected weekly.

MDC also hosts a store for Hawai‘i Pacific Park Association to support all national parks in Hawai‘i. The store remains open during the shutdown.

Government phone access at the center is not available, and delivers a message of shutdown. The current best number to reach the center is (808) 498-4709.


The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through its mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve America’s maritime heritage through on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs and scientific research and exploration.

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