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A fisherman paddles his boat.

New Caledonia: Home of the World’s Largest Marine Park

A French territory located 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) east of Australia, New Caledonia is internationally renowned for its natural beauty, rich biodiversity and remarkable coral reefs.

© CI/Lily Clarke

The Natural Park of the Coral Sea protects 1.3 million square kilometers (502,000 square miles) of marine ecosystems essential to the people, biodiversity and climate resilience of the southwest Pacific islands.

A sanctuary for sharks, whales and turtles, New Caledonia is famously home to the world's third-largest population of dugong, the last remaining marine mammal that eats strictly plants. In addition, New Caledonia boasts one of the world’s largest lagoons at 24,000 square kilometers (over 9,000 square miles), circled by the longest coral reef at 1,600 kilometers (618 miles). For local people, the lagoon provides their daily fish and coastal protection, and is vital to their unique traditions, many of which date back thousands of years.

New Caledonia's quarter of a million people depend on healthy ecosystems for their fresh water, food and livelihoods — especially because the territory’s main source of income, nickel mining, will run out one day. Ecotourism and improved management of the island's marine resources could fuel a sustainable economy in the future.

Our role

Conservation International has had a presence in New Caledonia since 1996, working at all levels to protect the environment while benefiting the people and economy.

Through research and collaboration with communities, local organizations, the government and other partners in the region, we are helping the government shape the Natural Park of the Coral Sea park's spatial planning and management plan, fund key scientific research to inform that plan and integrate New Caledonia's contributions within the Pacific Oceanscape and Big Ocean Network.

“New Caledonia, Mother of the Coral Sea” features the incredible diversity of the Coral Sea in New Caledonia and how it provides for the people of New Caledonia — where nature and people are inextricably linked. The film features the different sides of New Caledonia — from Noumea, its capital city, to the magnificent Ouvea, referred to as “the closest island from Paradise”, and the bountiful life — turtles, sharks, manta rays, and large schools of fish — that blossoms in these waters, and are respected as culturally-significant totems. Local community members, Marie-Lucette Taoupoulou, Pierre Kaouma, Marjorie Tiaou and Marino Tiaou take us through their world and their way of life. They share about their bond with nature and their aspirations of preserving this bond for generations to come. Conservation International and the Manta Initiative are working with partners to conserve the Coral Sea and its diversity — before it becomes endangered. Narrated in French, with English subtitles, the film, produced by Blue Sphere Media, also features CI’s Marine Program Coordinator Mael Imirizaldu and Manta Initiative researcher Hugo Lassauce. The video will be available on www.conservation.org/coralsea. The Mother of the Coral Sea has won a Silver Award for Best Documentary Short and an Honorable Mention for Best Cinematography at the Independent Shorts Awards in Hollywood, and has been officially selected to screen at the International Ocean Film Festival.

Our plan

Local engagement, large-scale results

Conservation International works with communities and local governments to protect key sites and create protected areas and networks. We aim to develop a community-based management model that incorporates local rules and uses, supported by science and modern management tools, as well as economic, educational and cultural components to ensure that all needs are represented.

Ridge to reef approach

In New Caledonia's Northern Province, Conservation International is helping establish larger protected areas, many of which span land and sea. Healthy terrestrial and marine ecosystems can avert harmful downstream effects to the ocean from upstream actions such as increased sedimentation caused by deforestation. In Mount Panie, for example, we are working to conserve the forest and reduce sediment flows downstream and into the lagoon, which is critically important to local people.

World Heritage Site management

In Loyalty Island Province, Conservation International works with provincial and customary authorities, resource owners and users to identify effective management strategies for Ouvea as a World Heritage Site using a community-based approach. We are also part of the management committee of the Entrecasteaux Atoll World Heritage Site cluster, a 2,000-square-kilometer no-take zone and fully protected marine reserve.

Policy and research

Conservation International works with partners and government agencies to develop policies that support the sustainable use of marine resources. We are strengthening the analysis of New Caledonia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to support the design of the Natural Park. We advise the government on building governance around tourism, fisheries and deep-sea mining, providing expertise and recommendations for marine spatial planning. Additionally, we contribute to the research and analysis of terrestrial ecosystems of remote oceanic islands and islets within New Caledonia’s waters to inform protected area management.

Aligning with other Pacific island states

Regionally, Conservation International supports New Caledonia in its commitments to the Pacific Oceanscape. We also support New Caledonia's engagement with the Australian Government in efforts to coordinate efforts to sustainably manage their portions of the Coral Sea. We also have supported the formation of a bilateral sister site agreement between New Caledonia and the Cook Islands to share lessons learned from the development of their respective marine protected areas. Finally, we facilitated the integration of New Caledonia as member of the Big Ocean, a network of the world’s large-scale marine managed areas.

 

Coral Reef in New Caledonia
© Rodolphe Holler

By the numbers

1.3 million square kilometers

Conservation International will continue to support New Caledonia in the management of its multiple-use marine protected area, which covers 1.3 million square kilometers (502,000 square miles) of essential ecosystems.