In June 2014 by legislative decree, New Caledonia President Harold Martin and the French territory’s political leadership legally established the Natural Park of the Coral Sea (Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail). The new law brings under careful management a multi-use, marine protected area which totals a massive 1.3 million km2, making it the largest protected area in the world. Essential to people, biodiversity and climate resilience, the park’s ecosystems generate around 2,500-3,000 tons of fish each year, providing food to New Caledonia’s quarter of a million people and an economic driver for the territory’s sustainable economy.
Over the next three years, Conservation International experts in New Caledonia and the region will help the government shape the park’s spatial planning and management plan, fund key scientific research to inform that plan, and integrate New Caledonia’s contributions within the Pacific Oceanscape and Big Ocean Network. The management plan will use best practices for integrated management and the protection of ecosystems, habitats and species. It will also strengthen monitoring strategies, preserving cultural values and work to increase international visibility.
In the next phase of the park’s development, the levels of protection will be defined. Ultimately, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea will be a multiple use area with various zones for economic activity and conservation.
New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, is home to a rich variety of underwater life, including more than 1,700 fish and 473 coral species. Its waters span 1.3 million square kilometers (463,323 square miles) and include one of the world’s largest lagoons.
In April 2014, the government of New Caledonia took an important step toward protecting these vast waters by creating the Coral Sea Natural Park. That action provided a framework for safeguarding and managing the territory’s exclusive economic zone.
Pew is working to establish highly protected large reserves within the park, areas where fishing and extractive activities would be prohibited. Protection at this level would allow for the recovery of depleted fish populations, help to preserve New Caledonia’s exceptional marine environment, and protect the migratory routes of large marine mammals and turtles.