PNG eyes new marine protected areas


PAPUA New Guinea has announced its commitment to creating 7,500 square kilometers of marine protected areas in the Bismarck Sea by 2021.
The Government made the announcement at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia with the support of two conservation NGOs: the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Marine Protected Areas Fund and Oceans 5.
The PNG Government has pledged to triple the coverage of its current marine protected area (MPA) network, and this new 7,500-square kilometer (nearly 2,900-square-mile) commitment will achieve that goal. According to WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper, the new MPAs will also help the country meet its Aichi Target goal of protecting 10 percent of its territorial waters and coastline by the year 2025.
The new MPA network will encompass 2,500 square kilometres of coastal areas around Tikana and Lavongai islands, including key coral reef systems, in the Bismarck Sea, as well as 5,000 square kilometres of offshore areas identified as high priorities for marine conservation in New Ireland.
“We applaud the Government of Papua New Guinea for its recently announced commitment to protect an enormous expanse of one of the world’s natural wonders: the Bismarck Sea,” Samper said in a statement.
“Papua New Guinea is already well known as a land of great cultural diversity and home to the famous birds of paradise; what is less known is that the country’s marine riches are just as spectacular, and the Bismarck Sea supports more than three quarters of the world’s known hard coral species and is part of the Coral Triangle, the center of marine biodiversity.”
The Bismarck Sea is considered one of the most biologically diverse areas on earth. Samper said that the marine ecosystems the new MPAs are designed to protect provide critical habitat for a number of species, including nearly 2,000 species of fish and more than 130 species of sharks and rays.
“Coastal areas lined with biologically diverse and pristine mangrove forests will also benefit from MPA expansions under the new commitment,” he said.
But, Samper noted, “The biggest beneficiaries of additional MPAs in the Bismarck Sea will be people, whose livelihoods and food security depends on the health of the marine habitats.”
PNG was just one of the numerous participants in the 2018 Our Ocean Conference that made pledges totaling more than $10 billion to protect some 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles) of the world’s oceans. –

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