French Polynesia

Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy


The waters around French Polynesia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific Ocean, make up the world’s largest contiguous exclusive economic zone. At 5 million square kilometers (1.9 million square miles), the territory’s waters span an area as large as the landmass of the European Union. These vast and healthy waters are home to 21 species of sharks and an exceptional coral reef system that supports 176 coral and 1,024 fish species.

The mayors and communities of the Austral Islands, one of the five archipelagoes that make up French Polynesia, invited the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy team to collaborate on efforts to designate a large-scale marine reserve in their waters.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy team is working closely with municipalities, fishermen, scientists, environmental organizations, and the private sector to help French Polynesia meet its ambitious goal of protecting at least 20 percent of its waters by 2020. In November 2013, the territory committed to creating large marine protected areas in the waters around the Austral Islands (1 million square kilometers or 386,100 square miles) and the Marquesas Islands (700,000 square kilometers or 270,270 square miles).

Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy and its partners are collaborating on marine protection scenarios that are in line with traditional Polynesian culture and civil society. In May 2014, French Polynesia invited Pew to coordinate a multifaceted scientific study of the marine ecosystem of the Austral Islands. The results will help the government develop recommendations for protecting the archipelago's marine resources.

Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation joined forces in 2017 to create the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project. This effort builds on a decade of work by both organizations to protect the ocean. Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy initiative, established in 2006, helped obtain commitments to safeguard more than 6.3 million square kilometers (2.4 million square miles) of ocean by working with philanthropic partners, indigenous groups, community leaders, government officials, and scientists. Since 2010, the Bertarelli Foundation has worked to create marine protected areas around the globe and simultaneously advance our understanding of marine science.

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Kevin Connor

Manager, Communications