New Caledonia

New Caledonia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific Ocean, is among the few healthy marine environments remaining on the planet. The waters of the territory’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) span 1.3 million km2, within which lies one of the world’s largest lagoons.

These waters are home to pristine ecosystems and an incredible array of marine life, including more than 1,700 species of fish, and iconic and threatened species such as humpback whales, dugongs, large sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, Napoleon wrasse, sea snakes and seabirds. Some 700,000 pairs of seabirds nest on remote islands as part of an estimated 2.5 million birds found across the territory. All these species depend on healthy habitats for feeding, nesting, reproducing, and migrating.

Scientific studies have highlighted the exceptional nature of New Caledonia’s deep ecosystems. They have revealed high levels of biodiversity, previously unknown species, and species from ancient groups, such as the endemic nautilus and the living fossil crinoid, Gymnocrinus richeri, that had been thought to be extinct 140 million years ago. The deep reefs and seamounts provide rich and productive habitats for some species found nowhere else in the world.

New Caledonia also has the world’s second-largest barrier reef and a remarkable diversity of coral reefs, with more than 400 coral species identified to date.

In April 2014, New Caledonia’s government announced its intention to create a marine management area, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, which covers the territory’s entire EEZ. A government committee continues to work on a management plan that will define the regions of the park, how they will be used, and their levels of protection.

The Bertarelli Foundation, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts[1], continues to work with the government committee, local communities, fishermen and scientists, and is advocating for at least one vast, highly protected marine reserve to be included in the Natural Park of the Coral Sea. In August 2018, the New Caledonian government voted to create four marine protected areas around the Astrolabe, Pétrie, Chesterfield and Bellona coral reefs.

The designation of a highly protected area within the Natural Park of the Coral Sea would safeguard the region’s marine habitats, foster healthy marine ecosystems and maintain fish populations — particularly of highly mobile and migratory species – for the future.

[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.