News 16 Aug 2018
On Tuesday 14 August, International NGOs and representatives of the tourism, fisheries and customs sector met with the Government of New Caledonia, French officials and the Natural Park of the Coral Sea board members.
The meeting took place aboard the Louis Hénin, a ship that is regularly sent to the Natural Park of the Coral Sea. The marine park covers over 1.3 million square kilometres which is most of the New Caledonian waters except for the lagoon. After the meeting, a press conference took place where all attendees of the meeting expressed their pride over their plans to protect the reefs within the park.
Earlier that day, the government adopted a decree establishing several reserves around the reefs of Chesterfield, Bellona, Pétrie, Astrolabe and d’Entrecasteaux. Altogether these reefs and their surrounding waters covers an area that is bigger than both the Grande Terre and the Loyalty Islands.
While the biodiversity of these reefs is of "global value", 21,000 sqkm have been placed in partial reserves which means fishing is now prohibited and access is subject to authorisation "under strict conditions". In addition, 7000 sqkm covering the "richest areas" are now integral reserves meaning all access is now prohibited except for scientific research.
"It's a big step that has been taken" says President Philippe Germain.
"It was only yesterday that anyone could do what they wanted in these areas where 30% is one of the world's "most pristine" reefs. Now it's become a global hotspot of preservation and this will continue on."
The work to protect the reefs in the marine park started in 2014 but it has taken four years to develop a proper management plan due to many setbacks.
"We finally have a breakthrough for these reefs that deserve it" says Christophe Chevillon of The Pews Charitable Trust.
"But this marine park contains many other treasures and our efforts to preserve it must endure for years to come".
The government also established other decrees which includes a special action plan for the Entrecasteaux atoll and proper regulation of tourist activities in areas that are not prohibited in the marine park. The regulation will prohibit cruise ships carrying more than 200 passengers to nature reserves, and cruise ships that carry less than 200 passengers will need to sign an agreement with the government to have their activities supervised.