The French territory of New Caledonia wants to protect the ocean waters that surround the South Pacific island, seen above. With a legislative decree in April, the government established the Natural Park of the Coral Sea (Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail), a protected area totaling 1.3 million square kilometers. Conservation groups are applauding the designation, which creates what they’re calling the single largest protected marine area in the world. Diverse aquatic life, seamounts and one of the world’s largest coral reef structures are among the distinctive features in the waters surrounding New Caledonia.
The Natural Park of the Coral Sea is consistent with a regional effort to expand marine protections involving 16 Pacific Island nations and six territories. The Pacific Oceanscape initiative aims to extend collaborative management to almost 40 million square kilometers of ocean.
The region will be well-represented at the Our Ocean conference, to be hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington June 16–17. A wide range of delegates from nations with significant ocean interests will attend the two-day session, in addition to representatives from scientific, academic and advocacy institutions. The meeting will focus discussions on three issues of immediate concern: ocean pollution, fisheries preservation and ocean acidification.
Kerry announced the conference in a February speech, saying, “We need a far more robust international dialogue on protecting and governing our oceans.”