It is estimated that coral reefs make up just 0.1 percent of the world’s oceans, yet they provide a home for more than 25 percent of all known marine species. In turn, these structures are crucial to the survival of a significant number of aquatic creatures.

The bad news is these reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate due to climate change, overfishing, ocean pollution, and other human-related threats. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), around half of the world’s shallow-water coral reefs have already been lost, which spells major trouble for the many species that live in the underwater ecosystems.

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As the plight of coral reefs has come to light in recent years, many places have amped up their efforts to protect these delicate marine biomes. Earlier this summer, for instance, Hawaii lawmakers passed a ban on sunscreen brands which contain chemicals known to bleach coral and disrupt aquatic ecosystems, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate.

In a similar move designed to help preserve coral reefs threatened by human activity, the Pacific island nation of New Caledonia recently announced increased protection measures for the coral ecosystems off its coast. This is a groundbreaking step in saving our planet’s remaining coral reefs from extinction, and it will be instrumental in helping the 9,300 marine species that live in and around the archipelago’s remote zones to thrive in coming years.

As John Tanzer, the head of oceans for WWF International, reportedly stated, “This is the kind of leadership we need to see in coral reef conservation and we applaud it.” He added, “With good management, these marine protected areas will help maintain fish populations and ecosystem health that will build the reef’s resilience to the impacts of climate change in the future.”

Unlike many of the planet’s coral ecosystems, New Caledonia’s have managed to remain nearly pristine thus far. In fact, the island nation’s reefs, which include Astrolabe, Chesterfield, Petrie, and Bellona, are considered to be some of the healthiest corals left on Earth, making it all the more important to protect these beautiful and environmentally essential structures.

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So what specific efforts are New Caledonia’s leaders taking to do so? Excitingly, the island nation’s government officials plan to designate areas surrounding the reefs as “marine protected areas” (MPAs). This means that both commercial and industrial fishing, along with other activities that could potentially jeopardize marine life and their habitats, will be prohibited in 28,000 square kilometers (10,810 square miles) of waters. Furthermore, tourist activity in and near reef ecosystems will be more strictly regulated from here on out.

While this is certainly a major win in the fight to save coral reefs from damage and possible extinction, there is still much more work to be done. As Christophe Chevillon, head of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy in New Caledonia and a drafter of the new measures, reportedly said, “Although we believe this to be a major breakthrough, we are convinced that New Caledonia can still go further and lead the way for other Pacific countries.”

He went on, “In fact, the 28,000 square kilometers protected only represents 2 percent of the Coral Sea Natural Park.” We certainly agree that the entirety of New Caledonia’s waters are more than worthy of protection, and we hope to hear about further conservation efforts in the near future!

In the meantime, there’s a lot we can all be doing on an everyday basis to help save our oceans and their precious inhabitants. To learn about how you can do your part, check out the #EatForThePlanet campaign and these helpful articles:

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Image Source: Pixabay