French Polynesia’s Population Sees Ocean Health Declining, Want Stronger Marine Protections

Poll finds strong support for more reserves, including in Austral and Marquesas islands

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French Polynesia’s Population Sees Ocean Health Declining, Want Stronger Marine Protections
French Polynesia
French Polynesia populations vast and healthy waters are home to 21 species of sharks and an exceptional reef system that supports 176 coral and 1,024 fish species.
Ian Skipworth

French Polynesia’s coral reefs, bountiful fish populations, and other marine life are not immune to the mounting threats facing the world’s ocean, and a poll released today shows that local communities are concerned about the future of their seas: Nearly 80 percent of Polynesians think the ocean in French Polynesia is in poor health and insufficiently protected, while 75 percent believe that the number of fish in their waters is decreasing, and more than 90 percent want an offshore protected area designated to help address these declines.

The poll, conducted in July of 839 people from the Windward Islands, Leeward Islands, Marquesas Islands, and Austral Islands, found more than eight in ten respondents want stronger conservation measures, such as stricter fishing regulations and increased surveillance, and 75 percent believe that more than half of the ocean and lagoons of French Polynesia should be protected. The findings come on the heels of scientific analysis from the United Nations Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which reinforced the value of marine protected areas as a critical tool to build resilience of the marine environment.

Of note, the poll finds that 81 percent of the Austral population favors the creation of the Rāhui Nui nō Tuha’a Pae large marine reserve and 85 percent of the Marquesas population supports the creation of the Te Tai Nui a Hau Marine Protected Area. These projects were proposed in 2016 and 2018, respectively, but neither have been finalized by the government.

This survey could serve as a helpful tool for development of the management and protection strategies of the country's maritime area.

The poll was commissioned by the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project and conducted by the Alvea Agency, an independent and certified polling institute.

Jérôme Petit directs the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project’s work in French Polynesia.