Editor's Note: The map associated with this statement was updated on Oct. 19, 2023, to correctly identify the Entrecasteaux Reefs as an existing highly protected area.
The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project today applauded the government of New Caledonia for increasing safeguards of part of its waters, home to a dazzling diversity of marine life.
The government today voted to highly protect 10% of the 1.3 million-square-kilometer (501,932-square-mile) Natural Park of the Coral Sea, which encompasses New Caledonia’s entire exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
Since the park was designated in 2014, the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project has collaborated with New Caledonia’s government, fishing industry, local organizations, and Indigenous Kanak communities to increase protections within the park’s borders and to establish effective park management.
“The Natural Park of the Coral Sea is a biological and cultural sanctuary,” said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project. “By protecting one-tenth of the park’s vibrant waters, the government has started to conserve internationally significant ecosystems, habitat for an array of unique marine life, and areas that are culturally important to New Caledonia’s local Kanak communities.”
The protections, for which New Caledonia residents indicated support during a public consultation period, will consist of multiple marine protected areas that are designated as highly protected, meaning fishing and other extractive activities, such as mining and drilling, are prohibited. Industrial activity is permitted in the rest of the park.
These new reserves increase the portion of New Caledonia’s EEZ that is highly protected from 2.4% to 10%, and conserves habitat for sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, and seabirds. The protections will also preserve important ecosystems such as coral reefs; seamounts that are home to unique ancient species; a deep-sea trench that reaches depths of more than 7,000 meters (4.3 miles); and internationally important breeding, feeding, and migration areas for seabirds and marine mammals, including humpback whales that travel annually to the Coral Sea from the Southern Ocean to give birth.
“By designating 10% of the park as highly protected, the government has started to uphold the commitment it made when establishing the park nearly a decade ago,” Di Carlo said. “Progress has been slow—and there is still much to do—but this important step forward will help preserve New Caledonia’s marine environment for ocean life, the local community, and future generations.”
The new highly protected areas support the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, an agreement struck in December in which nations committed to protecting at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030, a goal known as “30 by 30.”
“When the world committed to protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030, scientists recommended including high levels of protection to ensure true conservation outcomes. The government of New Caledonia has begun to meet that challenge,” philanthropist and ocean advocate Dona Bertarelli said. “As the biodiversity crisis worsens, highly protecting 10% of New Caledonia’s marine waters brings the world one step closer to preserving the basic systems we all rely on.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts and Dona Bertarelli created 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 or commitments to safeguard nearly 12.6 million square kilometers (4.8 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. Founded in 1948, The Pew Charitable Trusts uses data to make a difference. Pew addresses the challenges of a changing world by illuminating issues, creating common ground, and advancing ambitious projects that lead to tangible progress, including the need for effective marine conservation.