The government of New Caledonia, a French overseas territory 750 miles east of Australia, recently announced its decision to preserve 1.4 million square kilometers of marine habitat as part of the Coral Sea Marine Protected Area. The new addition — roughly half the size of India — will protect a portion of the marine environment located within 200 nautical miles of the New Caledonia coastline.
This is not the first marine protection commitment in the Coral Sea this year: On August 28, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna announced the creation of a 1.065 million square kilometer marine park covering the entire southern half of the nation’s waters in the South Pacific Ocean. Further, in June the Australian government announced its intent to create a network of marine parks covering 3.1 million square kilometers scattered around its coastlines.
The government of New Caledonia announced its plan at the 43rd annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat — a gathering of 16 Pacific Ocean island nations to collaborate on common issues of concern such as economic growth and sustainable resource management. The recent commitments mark the nations’ increasing commitment to development of the Pacific Oceanscape, a government-endorsed ocean initiative among the island nations designed to foster collaborative management needed to support the conservation of the Pacific Ocean and its islands.
In total, members of the Pacific Islands Forum control 40 million square kilometers of marine and land habitat — or nearly 8 percent of the planet’s surface. By conserving the coastal marine habitat, the island nations hope to maintain the lifestyles not only of the human inhabitants, but also of the plant and animal marine life that’s found in a substantial part of the world’s largest ocean.