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Pacific conservation resurgence

By Colin Ricketts - 06 May 2014 11:5:0 GMT
Pacific conservation resurgence

The giant lagoons (here, the Isle de Mare) of New Caledonia support an immense diversity of invertebrates and naturally the fish, reptiles and mammals that can benefit from the reefs and the prey they find there; New Caledonia image; Credit: © Shutterstock

In beautiful Raratonga in 2012, the Pacific Islands Forum persuaded the Coral Sea Coastal States to commit to even more marine protected areas. The Republic of Kiribati have already established their Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA, I like the name!) with a magnificent 408,250 sq. km (157,630 sq. miles.) Likewise, the Cook Islands own Marine Park encompasses another vast area of the Pacific, now to be joined by the French colonial New Caledonia (Nouvelle Caledonie.) Whereas The PIPA is the size of California, the new area is half the size of the Indian subcontinent, at 1.4 million sq. km (450, 543 sq. miles), by far the largest marine protected zone (so far) and the first Melanesian development in protected marine zoning.

His magnificent area of giant lagoons will be known as Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail, as declared last week by the President Harold Martin. The 250,000 people of New Caledonia benefit from generous fishing produce (up to 3000 tons a year.) The economy should not suffer therefore, within this exclusive economic zone, while tourism is bound to increase, given the underwater and other attractions.

How many species inhabit these depths, and the reefs? Sharks should benefit from this by remaining out of Chinese shark fin soup. 48 species live in the area, accompanied by 25 marine mammals and 19 nesting birds (remember it's mainly open sea!) The turtles revel there, with 5 species indicating just why this is a unique Biodiversity Hotspot, UNESCO having given the world's largest lagoon near Grande Terre, World Heritage Site status. Many endemic species live in these reefs with nickel mining on Grand Terre the only threat.

The original 2010 concept of the Pacific Oceanscape is now a reality in this area, given the commitments of 2012 in Raratonga. 16 Pacific Island Forum countries and 6 overseas territories. They collaborated to conserve an unbelievable 10% of the earth's oceans. Just be careful when you draw up the legal niceties, guys --- Japanese whalers and their ilk are not allowed!