WCS President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper issued the following statement on the announcement of 7,500 square kilometers of new marine protected areas in Papua New Guinea’s Bismarck Sea:

“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. 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.

“With the assistance of WCS and other conservation partners, the Government of Papua New Guinea pledges to triple the size of its current marine protected area network. The 7,500-square-kilometers of new marine protected areas in this commitment will help the country advance towards its Aichi Target goal of protecting 10 percent of its marine territory by the year 2025. Once established, the newly created marine protected area network will not only cover vital reef systems in the Bismarck Sea, but will also protect coastal and offshore areas of the New Ireland Province designated as priority areas for conservation.

“We are proud to be partners in a decision that will help conserve one of the world’s last strongholds of coral reefs. These marine ecosystems support myriad 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. 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 of Papua New Guinea.”