Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Applauds Huge French Marine Protection Expansion in Southern Indian Ocean

Safeguards will cover about a million square kilometers

Pew Applauds French Marine Protection Expansion
Hundreds of king penguins walking on a pebble line beach.
The French Southern and Antarctic Lands, home to the world’s largest colony of king penguins, will be safeguarded under France’s declaration protecting about 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) in the southern Indian Ocean.
Bruno Marie

WASHINGTON—The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project today applauded France’s announcement that it will expand marine protections by about 1 million square kilometers (386,102 square miles) in the southern Indian Ocean.

French President Emmanuel Macron declared the new conservation measures at the One Ocean Summit in Brest, France, today. The move adds protections around Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands, the Kerguelen Islands, and the Crozet Islands—which are all part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, an overseas territory that is home to a richly diverse wildlife community. The expansion makes the waters around the three archipelagos the largest marine protected area in French waters by far, representing about 15% of the country’s global exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Most importantly, the Southern Lands marine reserve will include a new highly protected area surrounding Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands and covering about 255,000 square kilometers (98,500 miles), where all extractive activities, such as industrial fishing, will be prohibited. The added area will more than double the percentage of French waters that are highly protected, from 1.6% to 4%, but still leaves the country with a challenge of reaching its goal of highly protecting at least 10% of its waters by the end of this year. Science shows that highly protected areas provide the most significant ecological benefits.

The waters of the Southern and Antarctic Lands host exceptional biodiversity, with resident and migratory marine life including critically endangered Amsterdam albatrosses, orcas, whales, and several species of penguins, seals, and tuna. For example, the Crozet and Kerguelen Islands provide refuge to the world’s largest king penguin colony and second-largest southern elephant seal colony, respectively. And Amsterdam Island is home to the roughly 30 remaining breeding pairs of Amsterdam albatross, a critically endangered species found nowhere else on Earth. Researchers, military personnel, and support staff visit the islands occasionally, but the territory has no long-term human inhabitants.

Dona Bertarelli, co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation and Patron for Nature for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “France’s ambitious action to fully protect these waters is vital to ensure a healthy ocean ecosystem in a biodiverse area rich in marine life—including orcas, penguins, Antarctic fur seals, and the critically endangered Amsterdam albatross. France’s announcement also provides a significant contribution toward the global goal of protecting at least 30% of our ocean by 2030.”

Jérôme Petit, who leads the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project’s work in French waters, said: “As science continues to reinforce the value of large-scale, fully protected waters, France’s decision provides an important step toward a sustainable and healthy ocean. With the world’s largest exclusive economic zone—spanning 10 million square kilometers (3.9 million square miles)—France has an enormous opportunity to deliver global leadership on ocean conservation.”

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About the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project

The Pew Charitable Trusts and Dona Bertarelli joined forces in 2017 to create the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, with the shared goal of establishing the first generation of ecologically significant, large, and effective marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world; today, the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project also seeks to connect MPAs and help conserve key migratory species and entire marine ecosystems. These efforts build on more than a decade of work by Pew and the Bertarelli Foundation, led by Dona Bertarelli, to create large-scale highly or fully protected MPAs. Between them, they have helped to obtain designations to safeguard nearly 9 million square kilometers (3.5 million square miles) of ocean by working with communities, local leaders, philanthropic partners, Indigenous groups, government officials, and scientists. Dona Bertarelli is a philanthropist, investor, sportswoman, and strong advocate for ocean conservation. The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems, including the need for effective marine conservation. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/pew-bertarelli-ocean-legacy.

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