New Caledonia Creates World’s Largest Ever Natural Park

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The New Caledonian government recently created the largest protected area in the world, land or sea. To little fanfare Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail (the Natural Park of the Coral Sea) bought a total of 500,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometres) of the South Pacific Coral Sea under protected management.

Located about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) east of Australia, the new marine park is twice the size of Texas, three times the size of Germany and contains a marine ecosystem that sustainably supplies the 250,000 inhabitants of New Caledonia with food as well as supporting their tourism economy.

Importantly for France (New Caledonia is a ‘foreign territory’ of France), the park increases its contribution to the UN 2020 protection target to 16% vs 4% previously.

A government representative said they were inspired to create this park by the work of other South Pacific nations such as Kiribati, that created the then world’s largest marine park (PIPA) in 2008, and the Cook Islands, that upped the ante in 2011 with another marine park that was larger again than the massive PIPA.

These two parks, and the New Caledonia marine park, all fall within the larger Pacific Oceanscape, an initiative started by President Anote Tong of Kiribati and now endorsed by the 14 members of the Pacific Islands Forum (Australia, Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu).

The Pacific Oceanscape is a exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that covers an area larger than Canada, the US and Mexico combined (15 million square miles / 38.5 million square kilometres). The goal of this initiative is to build resilience in the ocean ecosystems so that marine life of all types can survive the “onslaught of global climate change” – President Anote Tong of Kiribate.

Key factors in achieving this goal are:

  • Strengthen governance
  • Increase sustainable ocean management education and training for policymakers
  • Increase efforts to maintain ocean health, including reducing the negative impacts of human activities
  • Increase scientific knowledge of the ocean to better inform policymakers
  • Combine political, legal, economic, environmental and military resources to counter illegal and criminal activity
  • Continue collaborating on conservation efforts

Aside from Australia (one of the world’s largest carbon emitters on a per capita basis), the Pacific Islands Forum member countries are uniformly low carbon emitters, but they are on the front line in terms of economic damage and threat from climate change and the degradation of the planets oceans.

Their ground braking efforts are to be applauded. Their lives literally depend on the world mitigating climate change impacts. Hopefully the big emitters can act now before they to find themselves on the front line.

Meanwhile, if you feel like a tropical South Pacific holiday, New Caledonia might be just the place. Surrounded by coral, the country sits in the largest lagoon in the world. In fact the whole thing is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Enjoy some of the best coral snorkelling and diving in the world, while it’s still there.

Other Major Marine Parks

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Chagos Marine Park

See also High Seas Alliance

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