French Polynesia

The waters around French Polynesia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific Ocean, make up the world’s largest contiguous exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

At 5,000,000 km2, the territory’s waters span an area as large as the landmass of the European Union.

These vast and healthy waters are home to 21 species of sharks and an exceptional coral reef system that supports 176 coral and 1,024 fish species.

About 600 km from Tahiti, the Austral Islands are the southernmost of the five archipelagos that make up French Polynesia, and have five inhabited and two uninhabited islands. Their relative isolation has resulted in a high number of species unique to the archipelago’s waters, especially among molluscs, fish, coral, and algae.

The people of the Australs are proud of their natural and cultural heritage and its strong ties to the ocean. They have a long history of implementing rāhui, a traditional Polynesian practice of restricting marine access to an area or resource in order to conserve it.

The mayors and communities of the Austral Islands invited the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy[1] team to collaborate on efforts to designate a large-scale marine reserve in their waters.

The Marquesas Islands, the northernmost archipelago in French Polynesia, comprise 12 islands, of which six are inhabited. Their waters are a biodiversity hotspot, and an important area for the reproduction of big eye tuna, a threatened species.

In 2014, French Polynesia committed to creating large marine protected areas in the waters, of 1,000,000 km2 around the Austral Islands, and 700,000 km2 around the Marquesas Islands.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy team continues to work closely with municipalities, fishermen, scientists, environmental organizations, and the private sector on marine protection scenarios that respect traditional Polynesian culture and civil society.

[1] The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation joined forces in 2017 to create the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project. Their aim is to create the first generation of ecologically significant and effective marine reserves around the world. The project builds on a decade of work by the two organizations to protect the ocean. Between them, they have helped obtain designations to safeguard 8.2 million square kilometres of ocean by working with philanthropic partners, indigenous groups, community leaders, government officials, and scientists. Since 2010, the Bertarelli Foundation has helped protect the ocean for future generations, through both marine conservation and collaborative marine science research.