In the months leading up to the 2014 World Parks Congress, Big Ocean’s membership doubled with the addition of seven large-scale MPAs from New Caledonia, the United States, and Australia. Member sites are currently all of the 14 established large-scale MPAs world wide. Collectively, these sites represent seven countries and are helping to protect more than 7 million square kilometers of our global ocean.
The first new site to join was New Caledonia’s Le parc naturel de la mer de Corail (Natural Park of the Coral Sea). First announced in August of 2012 in Rarotonga at the Pacific Islands Forum, formal establishment was made by legislative decree in April 2014. At a massive 1.3 million km2 (501,933 mi2) the a multi-use, marine protected area covers all of New Caledonia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), increases French contributions toward the United Nations’ protection targets for 2020, and is the first contribution to the Pacific Oceanscape––a collaboration by16 Pacific Island nations and six territories to manage nearly 40 million square kilometers of ocean––by a Melanesian country or a French overseas territory.
Next, the expanded US Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (1,269,980 million km2 490,343 mi2) joined as the first, singualr serial site, and added seven remote islands, atolls, and reefs scattered across the Central Pacific Ocean, from Wake Atoll in the northwest to Jarvis Island in the southeast. The areas included in the PRIMNM are farther from human population centers than any other U.S. area. The represent one of the last frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world, and comprise the most widespread protected areas on the planet under a single nation’s jurisdiction.
Finally, Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network joined, bringing five of its 58 sites into the Big Ocean fold. Managed by Parks Australia, the five sites are those which individually are larger than 100,000 square miles.
The sites joining Big Ocean are:
- The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve (989,842 million km2 or 382,180 mi2) that is internationally recognised for its rich biodiversity, unique species and important heritage values;
- South-west Corner Commonwealth Marine Reserve (271,898 km2 or 104,980 mi2) home to a wide range of important ecosystems in both shallow and deep water reaching abyssal depths of up to 6400 meters or more and includes parts of the Naturaliste Plateau believed to be associated with rich and possibly unique biological communities;
- Norfolk Commonwealth Marine Reserve (188,433 km2 or 72,754mi2) home to benthic habitats thought to act as stepping stones for faunal dispersal, connecting deep-water fauna from New Caledonia to New Zealand;
- Macquarie Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve (162,000 km2 or 62,548mi2) home to important habitat for seabirds including five albatross species, and foraging areas for New Zealand, antarctic and subantarctic fur seals and penguins during the breeding season;
- and the Argo-Rowley Terrace Commonwealth Marine Reserve (146,099 km2 or 56,409mi2) home to foraging areas for migratory seabirds, the endangered loggerhead turtle and unique seafloor features.
To learn more about the progression of the genre of large-scale marine protection, visit our Why Big? Why Now? page.