The culture and traditional knowledge of the Indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia contributes to the management of The Natural Park of the Coral Sea — a 1.3 million square kilometer expanse of marine ecosystems that are 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 only marine mammal that eats only seagrass. In addition, New Caledonia hosts the world’s largest lagoon, circled by the second longest coral reef.
For local people, the lagoon — which was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2008 — provides food and coastal protection. It is also 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. Improved management of the island's marine and terrestrial resources could fuel sustainable and climate-resilient local economies.
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's management plan, fund key scientific research to inform that plan and integrate New Caledonia's contributions within broader efforts — such as 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 journey begins atop New Caledonia’s highest peak, home to the single last stand of the ancient Kauri tree, a canopy tree which lives over 1,000 years. Truly a story of 'reef-to-ridge' connectivity, in which local conservation heroes relate how this sacred forest feeds the rivers and rich coral reefs of this tropical paradise, and how the people depend on the continued health of this natural system. The film takes you on their deep and personal journey, for themselves and for their children, to understand how climate change and invasive species are killing these ancient trees, a species that has been recognized as Critically Endangered, and how the increasing loss of these trees places the local (Kanak) way of life and unique culture under threat. But there is hope. With support from Conservation International, and Province Nord government, the local Kanak tribes and clans have responded by creating the first indigenous conservation organization in New Caledonia. They are now determined to double the size of the Mount Panié Protected Area. Join us for a deep dive in this jewel of the Southwest Pacific! More information at conservation.org/mtpanie
Kanak cultural vision of nature and its protection
Traditional knowledge and practices are some of the best ways of conserving nature. Conservation International supports the integration of the Kanak cultural vision within the protection in New Caledonia’s lands and waters. As a first step on this journey, we support the involvement of customary authorities in the effective management of the Natural Park of the Coral Sea.
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, Conservation International is helping to improve the management of watersheds and coastal areas. Healthy terrestrial and marine ecosystems can prevent negative impacts on marine ecosystems from increased sedimentation caused by invasive species or wildfire. We are working on implementing green firebreaks to conserve the forest and sediment traps to reduce siltation into the lagoon, which is critically important to local people.
World Heritage Site management
Through community-based coastal restoration, Conservation International works with provinces and municipalities, customary authorities and local communities, and resource owners and users to improve effective management of the island’s World Heritage Sites by building local capacities.
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 of the Coral Sea. We advise the government on building governance around production and protection to provide expertise and recommendations for effective management of the park. Additionally, we contribute to the research and analysis of terrestrial ecosystems to increase New Caledonia’s resilience to climate change by improving land use.
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 to coordinate the sustainable management 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.
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.