New Caledonia strengthens protection for some of the world’s last near-pristine coral reefs

Posted on 14 August 2018

At a time when the threats to coral reefs globally are growing sharply, the New Caledonian government has announced that its near-pristine coral reefs will be afforded the strongest categories of protection possible.
The French overseas territory, known for its magnificent beaches and coral lagoons, has banned all types of extraction, including fishing, in the Chesterfield, Bellona, Entrecasteaux, Pétrie and Astrolabe reefs , with tourist activity also expected to be rigorously controlled.  

Hubert Géraux, Manager, New Caledonia Office, WWF-France, said, “We welcome New Caledonia’s announcement of the classification of its near-pristine coral reefs. These ecosystems are full of life - the ocean’s equivalent of tropical forests - and France, through its overseas territories, carries an international responsibility for their protection.”

The new protected areas are part of the Natural Park of the Coral Sea of New Caledonia - an enormous conservation zone of 1.3 million km² (about 380,000 square nautical miles) - that was created in 2014. The five reefs covered under the new protection are considered exceptional examples of coral reef systems, and the surrounding areas provide important nesting areas for seabirds and green turtles, and habitat for humpback whales.

Subject to numerous threats, particularly from climate change, pollution and overfishing, coral reef habitats globally are at more risk than ever. The world has already lost about half of its shallow water coral reefs.

John Tanzer, Leader, Oceans, WWF International, said, “This is the kind of leadership we need to see in coral reef conservation and we applaud it. With good management, these marine protected areas will help maintain fish populations and ecosystem health that will build the reef’s resilience to the impacts of climate change in future. This leadership must inspire similar action by other governments.”
Entrecasteaux reef, New Caledonia.
© JM Boré
Entrecasteaux reef, New Caledonia
© JM Boré