For thousands of years — perhaps hundreds of thousands — a sizable coral reef has stretched across the seafloor in the Atlantic Ocean, near the southeastern part of the U.S. And its existence remained a well-hidden secret until a recent deep-sea expedition brought the thriving ecosystem to light.
Scientists on board the research vessel (RV) Atlantis discovered the reef last week, about 160 miles (257 kilometers) off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, the HuffPost reported. Cameras on a submersible deployed from Atlanis — the human-operated vehicle (HOV) Alvin — captured the unexpected sight of dense, cold-water coral populations seeding the sea bottom about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) below the ocean surface.
The site was covered with living corals — “just mountains of it” — growing atop the massive, skeletal remains of dead corals that had likely been inhabiting the area for millennia, expedition lead scientist Erik Cordes, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Temple University in Philadelphia, told the HuffPost. [In Photos: Diving in a Twilight Coral Reef]
Scientists used Alvin to explore the reef and collect coral samples during dives on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, according to the HuffPost. The researchers discovered copious amounts of Lophelia pertusa, a branching, whitish coral that prefers cold waters and that has previously been found growing at record depths in the Gulf of Mexico.
While tropical corals typically rely on symbiotic algae to survive, L. pertusadoes not, and it uses stinging tentacles to stun its prey and guide food into its stomach, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Corals detected by the Atlantis were found about 16 miles (26 km) to the northwest of corals found earlier this summer by the NOAA RV Okeanos Explorer, which was mapping hundreds of seamounts on the ocean floor, HuffPost reported. Together, the coral-covered area explored by Okeanos and the Atlantis extends for an estimated 85 miles (137 km), layered with enormous, rocky piles of dead coral that likely accumulated over many thousands of years, Cordes told HuffPost.
The RV Atlantis embarked on its 15-day expedition on Aug. 19, part of a 4.5-year collaborative project known as the Deep Sea Exploration and Research of Coral/Canyon/Cold seep Habitats (Deep SEARCH), according to the mission website.
Until Sept. 2, scientists on the Atlantis will explore deep-sea habitats near the southeastern coastal U.S. They will collect critical data on the distribution of ecosystems and wildlife of the sea bottom in order to more accurately predict how these fragile communities could be disrupted by human activity, NOAA reported on the Deep SEARCH website.
For juvenile whale sharks—or at least to a few which scientists were able to observe—the Sulu and Bohol Seas and the waters in between are important feeding grounds.
A globally endangered species, the behavior of whale sharks, locally called butanding, largely remains a mystery.
Scientists studying their behavior continue to work to demystify these gentle giants, even as governments have recently agreed to step up the effort to protect and conserve them.
The Philippines is known to promote whale shark interaction as a tourist attraction, particularly in Donsol in Sorsogon and Oslob in Cebu, where the largest congregation of whale sharks have been observed in the past.
The authors of the study, entitled “Satellite tracking of juvenile whale sharks in the Sulu and Bohol Seas, Philippines,” include Gonzalo Araujo, Sally Snow, the executive directors of the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (Lamave) and Chris Rohner and Simon Pierce of the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF).
Last month scientists from Lamave, MMF and Tubbataha Mangement Office announced the result of a scientific study on satellite-tagging whale sharks in the Philippines.
Lamave is the largest independent nonprofit, nongovernment organization solely dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and their habitats in the Philippines.
The study, published in the journal PeerJ, was the most complete tracking study of whale sharks in the Philippines to date, with satellite tags deployed on individuals in multiple sites.
The study has contributed to what is currently known about whale sharks in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. It shows that the Philippines is an incredibly important area for juvenile whale sharks.
But the proponents of the study said more research is needed to understand the location and movements of adult whale sharks.
Whale shark hot spot
An important hot spot for whale sharks, the Philippines hosts the third-largest known population of whale sharks.
While the species has been protected in the Philippines since 1998, globally it was uplisted in 2016 to “endangered to extinction” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
The reason: population decline of more than 50 percent largely caused by continued exploitation in the Indo-Pacific area, the proponents of the paper said in a July 24 statement to the press.
In Southeast Asia concerns remain due to continued fishing in regional waters.
The proponents of the study believe that understanding the movements of whale sharks in the Philippines is vital if we are to identify conservation priorities for the species.
Spot5 satellite tags
In the study, 17 whale sharks were tagged with Wildlife Computers Spot5, or the French Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre (Satellite for the Observation of Earth) tags in three different locations in the Philippines: Panaon Island (Southern Leyte), Northern Mindanao (Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Norte) and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Palawan). Tagging took place between April 2015 and April 2016.
All tagged whale sharks were juveniles, ranging in size between 4.5 meters to 7 meters; 73 percent of them were male.
“By attaching Spot5 satellite tags to the sharks, the team was able to follow the movements of juvenile whale sharks in near real time. The tags work by communicating with passing Argos [Advanced Research and Global Observation Satellite], transmitting a location when the wet/dry sensor is triggered when a tagged whale shark breaks the surface,” the study said.
Transmission tags were tethered to a whale shark by a 1.8-meter line.
The tracks from the tags revealed that all whale sharks stayed within the Philippines over the tracking period, emphasizing the importance of the archipelago for the species, the study revealed.
The longest track observed was from a whale shark originally tagged in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, which appeared to swim through the Sulu and Bohol Seas and into the Pacific, a journey accumulating over 2,500 km in length.
“While whale sharks are not known for their speed, results revealed that one individual whale shark was averaging 47 km a day, further emphasizing the species’ mobile tendencies,” the study added.
Araujo, the lead author of the paper, explained: “This research highlights the high mobility of whale sharks, even juveniles, and the need for broader-scale management and conservation plans for this endangered species.”
So far, dedicated research by Lamave and citizen scientists has identified over 600 whale sharks in the Sulu and Bohol Seas, yet the proximity of this population to fisheries in the broader region (South China Sea) means it is vital to monitor this population as a whole to understand if this population is in recovery or continuing to decline.
“Identifying threats and mitigation strategies is a conservation priority for the species. Lamave continues to study whale sharks in five key areas in the Philippines, working with local and national governments, as well as collaborating organizations to develop conservation strategies for this iconic species,” he said.
Further study needed
In an e-mailed response to the BusinessMirror, Snow, one of the study proponents, said further study of the behavior of whale sharks is needed.
They admitted that because the study was for a limited time only with the tags having attached for a short period, they cannot say for sure whether the observed whale sharks would stay in Philippine waters.
However, they suggested that since the Philippines is an important feeding area for whale sharks, with rich upwellings of food, the juvenile sharks found near the coast often aggregate to feed and the sharks’ movements may be between feeding sites.
The normal behavior of a whale shark remains unknown because of the limited study conducted about them. Studies should cover the entire life cycle of the species if to be able to really know what is a “normal behavior” of the species, the study proponents said.
They said it is also inconclusive to say that feeding the observed areas is part of their so-called normal behavior of the species
“Scientists are still trying to answer many questions about whale sharks, including where they reproduce, where they give birth and how far they travel,” they said in the press statement.
However, different studies have shown that some whale sharks have swum between international borders, while others have found that some have stayed within one region.
However, this information was limited to the time the sharks are tagged and only gave the scientists an insight into their behavior during that time of six months, and not for their entire life.
“For this reason, we can’t really call it ‘normal behavior’ as we are still investigating what normal behavior is,” they said.
In search for food
They added, however, that whale sharks may be making large-scale movements in search for food, or in the case of the adults, they could also be moving to different areas to reproduce.
Scientists are still investigating the answer to the questions on the behavior of this mysterious species.
As the study only recorded the movements of some individuals for a limited period, the proponents of the study could not ascertain how long the whale sharks stay in the Philippines.
Besides, they said a lack of baseline data for comparison prevents them from making a conclusion.
“What we found out was that the juvenile whale sharks we tagged for this study, stayed within Philippine waters. So at least for these individuals at this stage of their life, the Philippine waters are important,” they said.
What makes the Philippine waters unique?
The Philippines lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity. It is an incredibly important area for marine life and hosts a huge number of species, including the whale shark.
‘Butanding’ conservation leader
Since whale sharks have been protected in the Philippines since 1998, the proponents of the study believe that the Philippines is already a leader in whale shark conservation.
“The biggest threat lies outside Philippine boundaries where whale sharks are not protected. The findings from this study contributed to what we already knew about the butanding here and helped us create effective conservation strategies for the species, by identifying key hotspots or movement corridors,” they said.
Further research, they reiterated, is needed to investigate if whale sharks move outside the country’s boundaries. Such information will be a key to creating better international protection.
More protection needed
As the whale shark is protected, the best way people can ensure they contribute to the shark’s protection is by supporting sustainable whale shark-tourism initiatives, which have strict guidelines and interact with the sharks in the natural environment.
Another way is by keeping the oceans clean by reducing plastic use and engaging in cleanup activities, adding that marine life needs healthy oceans.
More important, to help protect the whale shark, various stakeholders should report any whale shark stranding or incidents with fishing gear to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and concerned local government units “so teams can ensure the safe return of the animal to the sea.”
More than 30 times this year, the federal government has received reports of whales tangled in fishing gear along the West Coast.
Sometimes the whales manage to wriggle free. Other times you see heart-rending pictures on the news or a rescue mission.
The culprit often involves Dungeness crab pot lines. Now Oregon crabbers are working with marine scientists to make the seas safer for whales and to avoid a black mark on their brand.
Bob Eder has fished commercially out of Newport, Oregon, for decades.
“Over 45 years of pulling crab pots — I think I’ve probably hauled in close to a million — I’ve never encountered an entangled whale,” he said.
‘We want to be proactive’
Eder often sees whales at sea and recognizes just one bad outcome blamed on fishing gear could be all it takes to cause a PR nightmare.
Whale numbers are up, but so are sightings of humpback whales, gray whales and the odd blue whale entangled in fishing lines and buoys — especially in California.
“We want to get out ahead of it. We want to be proactive,” Eder said. “We don’t want to be sued by the Center for Biological Diversity. We want to see what we can do to mitigate the situation.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is an environmental group and it did just sue the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The group wants a federal judge to order the state regulator to make crab fishermen do more to avoid harm to endangered whales.
Crab traps themselves are not the problem, but rather the heavy-duty ropes stretching from the seafloor to one or more buoys at the surface.
Whales can snag a fin or a tail and get all tangled up if there’s too much slack in the vertical line or excess floating on the surface.
“They normally don’t come in where our gear is,” said Hugh Link, executive director of Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. “But when we get warmer water and the feed comes in closer to shore, then we have an issue.”
Link and Eder are two members of a work group of crabbers, marine biologists and government agency and nonprofit representatives. They’ve been meeting in Oregon since March.
Members of the Oregon Whale Entanglement Working Group met in various coastal ports to gather info and consider fishery modifications. (Photo by Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)
A grant from NOAA Fisheries launched what is known as the Oregon Whale Entanglement Work Group, which is facilitated and now supported by Oregon Sea Grant.
Washington state crabbers and other interested parties plan to meet Nov. 8 in Montesano to hear an update on whale entanglements and discuss whether the Washington-based/the local fleet should launch a proactive work group too.
The work group agreed to distribute a flyer to crab boat operators ahead of the season opener next month with best practices for setting and tending gear.
Oregon and Washington also have programs to retrieve lost or derelict fishing gear.
The work group next plans to survey the fleet about potential season modifications and area closures to keep whales away from gauntlets of ropes.
“To really take a swipe at minimizing co-occurrence between our fishing gear and the whales it may take shortening the season or shortening the amount of pots that can be fished,” Eder said. “This becomes highly controversial.”
Commercial crab fisherman Bob Eder of Newport, Oregon is part of a whale entanglement working group. (Photo by
Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)
Voluntary measures… or mandates
Those are however some of the very things the Center for Biological Diversity wants to see happen.
Oakland-based Center attorney Kristen Monsell applauds the Pacific Northwest crab fleet for trying to get out ahead of the issue.
“I think it’s great to hear that our neighbors to the north are meeting,” Monsell said. “I think if California had done so earlier — years and years ago — then we wouldn’t be seeing the number of entanglements that we’re seeing off our coast now.”
Monsell said she has no plans to expand the California lawsuit to the Oregon and Washington Dungeness crab fisheries at this time. That could change if there were an unanticipated surge in whale entanglement numbers in the Pacific Northwest.
One yellow flag for the environmental lawyers is the choice of voluntary versus mandatory whale avoidance measures.
“We don’t think voluntary measures will work,” Monsell said, because they are not always followed. The Oregon working group’s “directives” to prevent whale entanglements are merely suggestions, not requirements.
The Center for Biological Diversity has leverage because any harassment of an endangered whale constitutes an illegal “take” under federal law.
The Endangered Species Act prescribes heavy penalties for guilty parties unless NOAA Fisheries has issued an “incidental take permit” for a fishery, which it has not done for crabbers.
Blue whales and humpback whales are listed as endangered or threatened along the U.S. West Coast.
The gray whale population has rebounded such that it was removed from the threatened list in 1994.
The Dungeness crab fishery is in the focus right now because its their gear that is cut off of entangled whales most often.
The buoys have traceable numbers on them. But whales have also been sighted tangled up in gear from other fisheries, including gill nets and black cod or shrimp traps.
It’s also common for the source of the entanglement to go undetermined.
The number of West Coast whale entanglement cases successively set new records in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The pace of sightings of whales in distress in 2017 is lower than last year’s record of 71 separate cases, but still of concern.
A breakdown of this year’s whale entanglements provided by NOAA Fisheries had 32 separate cases reported through mid-October, of which 22 were listed as confirmed. As in prior years, the majority of sighting came from California waters (27 whales — 19 confirmed), with the rest from Oregon (1 unconfirmed), Washington (3 whales — 2 confirmed) and Mexican border waters (1 confirmed).
‘A risky endeavor’
Oregon State University marine mammal biologist Jim Rice manages the rescue response when a whale is reported entangled in Oregon waters.
“It has to be done very carefully,” Rice said. “Disentangling a whale is a risky endeavor. There is a great risk to personal safety and even a risk of humans getting killed in the process of trying to remove gear.”
“You can’t talk to the whale,” he continued. “It’s a wild animal. It’s programmed for survival. It may see would-be rescuers as potential threats.”
Rice remembers four instances in recent years when Oregon responders were activated to free an entangled whale.
In three of those cases, the rescuers could not find the whale.
In the final case, the entangled whale was a calf being guarded by its mother.
“They were swimming quite quickly. The line was lightly attached,” Rice said. “They basically did not slow down. The mother was not interested in letting us get too close to the calf.”
Rice does not know whether the calf survived.
Most of the time, NOAA can’t say either what eventually happened to a whale reported to be in distress because they become difficult to track at night.
A Portland-based spokesman for the NOAA Fisheries said that in only one of this year’s entanglements — near San Diego — was there strong suspicion that the whale died.
Unless an affected whale is later re-sighted free of fishing lines, the final outcomes are mostly unknown.
“I mean when you’re out there in a small boat looking for an entangled whale, you realize that it is a huge ocean and you’re in a tiny boat,” Rice said. “Your odds of finding that whale are actually really small unless you have eyes in the air looking down or you have a large vessel that has been following this whale for you.”
he Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s natural treasure, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and the largest living structure on the planet.
Sprawling at 344,000 square kilometers, the ecosystem is composed of 3,000 individual reef system and houses a variety of marine plants and animals including 4,000 species of mollusks, 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of sponge, and 300 species of hard corals.
Endangered species such as the dugong (sea cow) and the large green turtle call the Reef their home. To humans, the site provides billions of dollars in revenue from commercial fishing and tourism.
In 1981, UNESCO declared the Great Barrier Reef as a world heritage area. However, its crystal blue waters and bustling wildlife are being threatened by several environmental issues.
In the past three decades, the World Wildlife Fund or WWF reports that the Reef has lost half of its coral cover while pollution has caused an outbreak of deadly starfish. Global warming is also killing the Reef, causing massive coral bleaching that can potentially wipe out life underwater.
Saving The Great Barrier Reef
Every year, the governments of Australia and Queensland allocate approximately AU$200 million to care for the marine ecosystem and address issues that threaten its wildlife. On its website, the Australian government has detailed steps it has taken to protect the Reef by allocating funds and efforts to address individual threats to the heritage site.
The government has even doubled the funding to control the population of crown-of-thorns starfish that preys upon coral polyps. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority said that the venomous predators had caused the decline of almost half of the coral cover between 1985 to 2012.
The Department of Environment and Energy has also reported that since 2014, the government has banned port-related capital dredge within the protected natural heritage area.
In January, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced AU$60-million protection plan to save the Great Barrier Reef. The fund will cover new measures that include restoring vegetation around reef catchment (to prevent erosion), develop ways to make corals more resilient through science, and employ field workers who warn about coral bleaching.
“While [the reef] is facing increasing threats, we intend to remain leaders in reef management,” said Turnbull.
Global Warming: Biggest Threat To The Great Barrier Reef
However, a more pressing problem threatening the Great Barrier Reef and its inhabitants is climate change. The rising temperatures around the world due to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing massive coral bleaching.
“We’ve seen half of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef killed by climate change in just two years,” stated Mark Eakin, who authored a recent study on the largest reef system. “This study shows that the coral reefs that have been least affected by heat stress in the past are more sensitive to heat stress than we realized. It also shows climate change threatens the diversity that is the hallmark of coral reefs.”
To address the threat of climate change to the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian government is in the process of meeting its 2020 emission reduction target by investing in new technology, investing in soil carbon, cleaning up power stations, revegetation, increasing energy efficiency, and more. The country has also pledged $200 million to the Green Climate Fund in the hopes of creating a new climate change agreement that will involve countries around the world.
However, controlling climate change should be a global effort. Eakin, a coordinator for the Coral Reef Watch, added that unless humans are able to control the increasing temperature in the ocean, the Great Barrier Reef and the coral reefs around the world could be destroyed.
“We installed two video cameras on the outside of the pressure vessel to observe environmental conditions near our datacenter,” says Microsoft. You could use the feeds to marvel at the engineering behind the data center or you could just enjoy the soothing view of silvery fish dancing through the water. And, gosh, there are a lot of fish down there.
The experimental data center is part of Project Natick, which is testing the feasibility of subsea data centers powered by renewable energy.
Watch this:Microsoft wants to put your data underwater
“The vision of operating containerized datacenters offshore near major population centers anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users,” says Microsoft.
It’s great to contemplate the implications of the technology, but it’s also okay if you just want to kick back, mix yourself a Pina Colada and follow the fish as they explore Microsoft’s creation.
Japanese underwater photographer Ryo Minemizu has dedicated his 20-year career to capturing some of the smallest organisms in the sea—plankton. Shooting primarily in the shadow of Mount Fuji in the Osezaki sea, Minemizu goes deep underwater to discover the beauty and diversity of these microscopic creatures.
His dedication sees him spending two to eight hours underwater every day, where he sets about photographing these tiny organisms. As they typically measure between 2 mm and 40 mm, Minemizu has had to develop special techniques to achieve his incredible photographs. Through trial and error, Minemizu developed the Black Water Dive, a night dive with underwater lighting to bring out the best of larval plankton.
“Plankton are intriguing and beautiful creatures. They symbolize how precious life is by their tiny existence,” the photographer writes. “I wanted other people to see them as they are in the sea–that was my motivation for beginning to shoot plankton underwater, which is quite a challenge. Most plankton are so small and their movements are hard to predict. I have devoted my past 20 years to presenting their tiny figures, colors, and textures to capture their vivid beauty.”
Minemizu’s photographs are full of detail. The plankton are so complex that it’s difficult to believe how small they actually are in size. Through his skilled and carefully thought out marine life photography, Minemizu is able to capture the vibrant colors and anatomical complexity of the plankton, which are some of the most abundant organisms on earth. And in doing so, he reminds us of just how vital these often unseen creatures are to the food chain.
After years of focusing on the scientific community, Minemizu is bringing his brilliant photography to a wider audience. His touring exhibition, Jewels in the Night Sea, opens at the Canon Gallery Giza in Tokyo on August 20, 2018, before moving to Nagoya and Osaka. Ryo Minemizu prints are available for sale via Fineprint Photo.
For over 20 years, underwater photographer Ryo Minemizu has challenged himself to capture the beauty of plankton.
Batesian mimicry, larval fish of ‘Soleichthys.’ Body length: 20mm
Unknown a larval ‘Gymnapogon.’ Body length: 35mm
Larval Tripod fish.
‘Megalopa’ larva of ‘Eplumula phalangium.’
Larval fish of ‘Hoplichthys.’ Body length: 30mm
In order to photograph these microscope creatures, Minemizu developed the Black Water Dive, a night diving technique using special lights to illuminate the plankton.
‘Hyperiidea’ on ‘Nausithoe’ jellyfish. Jellyfish umbrella width: 20mm.
Rodney Bursiel won the grand prize in the 2018 Scuba Diving Magazine underwater photography contest for this upside-down photo showing a whale just below the surface. (Rodney Bursiel / Scuba Diving Magazine)
From a clownflsh fluttering off the coast of Indonesia to a tiny octopus clinging to a glass tube, the undersea world provides no shortage of incredible sights.
Scuba Diving Magazine collects many of these stunning scenes every year by holding an annual contest seeking the best of the best in underwater photography.
The results of this year’s contest have been announced. They provide an incredible tour of the deep-sea world from Egypt to Mexico and everywhere in-between.
The grand prize went to Rodney Bursiel for an upside-down picture of a whale thrashing just below the surface of the Pacific Ocean near Tonga.
Bursiel said he encountered a mother whale and her calf after a day of searching for whales from a boat. He said the mother would watch on from a distance as the calf surfaced to breathe and went near the boat to get a closer look at it.
Prizes were also awarded in specific categories for photos taken on compact cameras, wide-angle shots, macro photography and conceptual pictures
Yap Katumbal finished second in the compact camera category for this photograph of a two-inch-long coconut octopus curled up inside a glass tube at the bottom of a dive site in Indonesia’s Lembeh Strait. (Yap Katumbal / Scuba Diving Magazine)
Tom St. George was awarded third place in the wide-angle category for his shot of reddish-orange water in the Cenote Carwash near Tulum, Mexico. He says the water’s unusual tint comes from runoff water that has been stained by decaying leaves. (Tom St. George / Scuba Diving Magazine)
Christian Vizi used a champion Chilean freediver as a model for this photograph, which he took near Quintana Roo, Mexico. He says he wanted to create the illusion that the diver was entering a magical world. Vizi was awarded third place in the conceptual category. (Christian Vizi / Scuba Diving Magazine)
While finishing off a wall dive near Bunaken, Indonesia, Christian Bachmann came across a fast-moving clownfish. He says “patience and a little luck” were required to get this photo, which finished second in the macro photography category. (Christian Bachmann / Scuba Diving Magazine)
Coral reef slope with damselfish and shark in background at ChesterfieldBASTIEN PREUSS
On the northeast side of Australia sits the archipelago of New Caledonia, a French territory in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Originally occupied by the Lapita people, the area was re-christened New Caledonia by Captain James Cook based on its resemblance to parts of Scotland. After a series of colonizing efforts, Napolean III took possession of New Caledonia in 1854 and it became an overseas French territory in 1946. While New Caledonia has been exploited for forced labor, sugar cane cultivation, and nickel mining, it has managed to maintain some of the healthiest and diverse coral reefs in the world.
New Caledonia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)KEVIN CONNOR, PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS
The first steps towards these conservation efforts were taken in 2008, when New Caledonia’s lagoons were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2014 with the founding of the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, which covers New Caledonia’s entire 1.3 million square kilometer Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ). Now, in the International Year of the Reef, new protections have been allotted across the Astrolabe, Pétrie, Chesterfield, and Bellona reefs as well as Entrecasteaux reef, which is part of the original UNESCO World Heritage site. The government of New Caledonia hopes that leaving these reefs undisturbed by human activity will help the lush biodiversity within these coral reefs thrive.
Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recommends that nations strive to protect 30% of their EEZs, these new restrictions represent only 2.15% of New Caledonia’s EEZ. Nonetheless, they help protect 1,700 species of fish, 473 species of coral, and several species of marine turtles, sea snakes, sea snails, seabirds, and marine mammals. With drastic reductions in ocean wilderness areas worldwide and the capacity for MPAs to facilitate recovery and resilience to ecosystems threatened by climate change, these new protections demonstrate how the actions of a small entity, like New Caledonia, can help change the way we use ocean resources.