BALI, Indonesia—President Philippe Germain of New Caledonia committed today to protecting 200,000 to 400,000 square kilometers (77,220 to 154,440 square miles) of marine waters within the Coral Sea Natural Park, which the government established in 2014. A management committee has been working on a conservation plan for the 1.3 million-square-kilometer park, which covers New Caledonia’s entire exclusive economic zone in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The plan will define the park’s regions, as well as each region’s uses and level of protection.
As part of the commitment unveiled at the Our Ocean Conference, New Caledonia plans to designate the area within the park as highly protected by the end of 2019, which would safeguard these waters from fishing and other extractive activities. That step would ensure that the waters remain healthy and continue to deliver ecotourism and environmental benefits.
Home to an incredible array of marine life, the area committed for protection covers 30 percent of the park and includes critical ecological features, such as the subduction trench of New Hebrides, volcanic islands, an upraised coral island, and southern seamounts that serve as key underwater reference points for migratory species such as humpback whales and sea turtles.
Christophe Chevillon, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project in New Caledonia, issued the following statement:
“The government of New Caledonia has shown its commitment to protecting the vibrant and diverse marine environment of the Coral Sea Natural Park. Today’s announcement by President Germain builds on the recent decision to protect 28,000 square kilometers within the park, which will help conserve some of the healthiest and most isolated coral reefs in New Caledonia’s waters. This momentum moves the government closer to fulfilling its pledge to establish robust protections and management within the marine park.
“Since the designation of the Coral Sea Natural Park in 2014, we have worked with the people of New Caledonia, the government, the fishing industry, and other local organizations to increase protections within the park and to establish the management needed for these biologically rich waters. These collective efforts support a global call to action to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.
“The area proposed for protection is rich in marine biodiversity. The volcanic islands of Walpole, Matthew, and Hunter are refuges for migrating seabirds and home to the nesting site of the white tern. These islands are also critical breeding areas for Pacific frigates, the red-tailed tropicbird, sooty tern, and gray noddy.
“Today’s commitment to implement strong protections and protect a vast area of New Caledonia’s marine environment will ensure that New Caledonia’s leaders can deliver on their goal for the Coral Sea Natural Park: to foster healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable tourism while preserving local waters for marine species and the island communities that rely on the ocean.”