Preventing Coral Grief: A Comparison of Australian and French Coral Reef Protection Strategies in A Changing Climate

Author:Anne Caillaud - Florence Damiens - Bernard Salvat - Clive Wilkinson
Position:Employee of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and has been involved in marine governance issues since 2003 - Holds a Master's degree in economics and public policy from Ecole Polytechnique, Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences-Po) and Paris Graduate School of Economics, Statistics and Finance - Emeritus professor in marine...
Pages:26-31
 
CONTENT
26 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY
PREVENTING CORAL GRIEF: A COMPARISON
OF AUSTRALIAN AND FRENCH CORAL REEF
PROTECTION STRATEGIES IN A CHANGING CLIMATE
by Anne Caillaud, Florence Damiens, Prof. Bernard Salvat, and Dr. Clive Wilkinson*
INTRODUCTION
Australia, with its iconic Great Barrier Reef, and France,
through its overseas territories, are two developed coun-
tries that collectively claim custody of a sizeable part of
the world’s coral reefs (seventeen percent for Australia1 and ten
percent for France2). These reefs are not only some of the world’s
richest sources of biodiversity and fisheries productivity, but also
contain ecosystems particularly threatened by climate change.3
France possesses healthy coral reefs in some of its remote
or uninhabited territories such as Clipperton, Iles Eparses, or the
atolls of French Polynesia’s Tuamotu Archipelago.4 However, the
nation’s coral reefs around islands such as La Réunion in the
Indian Ocean, or Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean,
are severely threatened by direct, local overfishing, nutrient and
sediment pollution, and unsustainable coastal development.5
Additionally, both the French islands and Australia face a
growing concern for the state of their reefs due to the indirect
pressures brought about by climate change, including raised sea
surface temperatures, increased cyclone intensity, freshwater
runoff from extreme weather events such as floods, and ocean
acidification.6 The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009
confirms these concerns, stating that the outlook for the Great
Barrier Reef is “poor.”7 These local and global threats, especially
declining water quality from catchment runoff, set a dire scene
for reefs.
In light of their relative wealth, both Australia and France
have a moral obligation, as well as considerable direct economic
interests, to preserve these valuable ecosystems. Currently, natural
resource managers are seeking to control the direct stresses, but
feel impotent to act against climate change.8 Thus, both coun-
tries are now refining their management efforts to protect reefs,
specifically through the establishment of Marine Protected Areas
(“MPAs”), to ensure that the reefs have the g reatest resilience
in the face of increasing climate change.9 This Article examines
the interests at stake in preserving coral reefs (and other marine
ecosystems) and the Australian and French marine management
systems to pinpoint management strengths and weaknesses.
The ultimate conclusion of this article is that Australia and
France can gain considerably from sharing experiences and
lessons to enhance coral reef resilience to the threat of global
climate change.
INTERESTS AT STAKE
INTEREST IN PRESERVING NATURAL BEAUTY
AND INTRINSIC VALUES
As the two developed countries with the most expansive area
of coral reefs in the world, Australia and France have a national
and international obligation to protect these awe-inspiring ecosys-
tems and preserve their intrinsic natural values. Australian coral
reefs, mainly located on the length of its tropical coastline (and
hence continental reefs), host more than 1,600 species of bony
fish and 500 species of coral.10 France’s coral reefs have added
significance in that they include tropical marine biodiversity
from three of the world’s oceans, with reefs located around
islands in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans.11 Coral reefs,
which provide shelter to more than onethird of all known marine
species,12 have also earned both countries World Heritage list-
ings: the Great Barrier Reef was the first marine landscape in the
world to be declared a World Heritage Site in 198113 and France
listed the New Caledonian Lagoon in July 2008.14
ECONOMIC INTERESTS
Beyond the moral duty of preserving these rare and
biodiverse ecosystems for the enjoyment of future generations,
coral reefs also play a very important role in local societies and
contribute largely to national economies and industries such as
marine tourism, commercial fisheries, and shipping.15 Moreover,
they provide numerous direct ecosystem services, including
coastal protection from natural disasters (such as tsunamis and
cyclones), biotechnology, and energy.16 Using the total economic
value approach (“TEV”), which includes “use” and “non-use”
values (e.g. how much people are willing to pay to preserve coral
*Anne Caillaud is an employee of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Author-
ity and has been involved in marine governance issues since 2003. She holds a
Master’s degree in international affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies
(Sciences-Po) and a degree in natural resources management from James Cook
University.
Florence Damiens holds a Master’s degree in economics and public policy from
Ecole Polytechnique, Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences-Po) and Paris
Graduate School of Economics, Statistics and Finance.
Prof. Bernard Salvat is is an emeritus professor in marine biology. He has
dedicated his life to coral reef science, management and conservation and
presided over a number of international fora on coral reefs. He is presently co-
leading a program on large MPAs.
Dr. Clive Wilkinson was the Coordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring
Network and a Senior Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science
following a doctorate in marine ecology.
27WINTER 2012
reefs given their potential future use), coral reefs are estimated
to be worth between US $100,000 and US $600,000 per square
kilometre per year depending on their location.17 In Australia,
the TEV of the Great Barrier Reef was calculated in terms
of present value to be a total of AU $51.4 billion (US $52.3
billion)18 while a mere one percent improvement in its health
would increase its value by up to $811.3 million.19 In France, the
amalgamated TEV of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses has
been calculated as being worth 245 (US $322 million per year),
100 million for coral reefs alone in Martinique.20 The Moorea
atolls in French Polynesia have been valued at US $85.5 million
per year,21 and the option value of the reefs in La Réunion were
valued at 308,917 (US $412,002) per square kilometre.22
LONGER-TERM INTERESTS
But the value of reefs goes beyond moral obligations or
dollar figures: long-term interests also come into play. While
there is still much unknown about coral reef ecosystems, scien-
tists agree that these reefs constitute vast reservoirs of genetic
diversity with enormous potential for industries such as pharma-
ceutics, biochemistry, construction, and cosmetics.23
Reefs have also been identified as being large contributors
to the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide emissions, making
them valuable “carbon sinks”24 and thereby crucial in climate
change mitigation.25 Unfortunately, this capacity has a major
downside for coral reefs: as more and more carbon is absorbed
in oceanic systems, oceans become more acidic which in turn
affects the ability of reefs to develop and grow.26 This means
that, as indicator ecosystems, reefs can provide valuable infor-
mation on the progress of climate change: scientists are already
closely monitoring the status of coral reefs to distinguish signs
of increased vulnerability as an early warning mechanism on the
sustaining ability of oceans to “absorb” carbon.27
THE GOVERNANCE CONTEXT
Australia and France have each instituted several sys-
tems to ensure that coral reefs and associated ecosystems are
protected against climate change. These systems, which focus
on climate change threats and impacts to reefs rather than
addressing climate change itself, vary in complexity and
advancement, exhibiting significant differences due to existing
governance and geopolitical contexts.
AUSTRALIA: A WELL ESTABLISHED BUT SOMETIMES
DISJOINTED SYSTEM
Australia has been a pioneer in formalizing the safeguarding
of Marine Protected Areas, coral reefs and their habitats; the
country established its first Great Barrier Reef marine park at
Green Island in 1937.28 Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef has
been formally managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority since 1975 to enforce the prohibition of a myriad of
detrimental activities such as mining.29 Consequently, Australia
has a long history and experience of governmental MPA man-
agement both at the National and State levels, possibly because
of the obvious economic and social benefits of a well-managed
public resource used by industries with conflicting interests
(e.g. tourism vs. fisheries).30
These two levels of governance, however, often fail to
align their approaches, which can lead to incoherent, disjointed
management and administrative regimes. Australia’s federal
history is relatively young (the Commonwealth of Australia was
only formed in 1901)31 and, unlike France, the Commonwealth
has no power to interfere into States’ affairs, except for those
identified as being of national significance or concerning inter-
national engagements.32 Australia has attempted to facilitate
collaboration among its State governments by adopting the
1997 Heads of Agreement on Commonwealth and State Roles
and Responsibilities for the Environment by the Council of
Australian Governments (“COAG”), the leading intergovern-
mental forum in Australia.33 Despite such efforts, countrywide
environmental governance could be further streamlined. This
is particularly true for marine management issues given that
the States regulate a band of waters spreading from the high-
water mark to three nautical miles (5.556 km) offshore (coastal
waters as per the Coastal Waters Act 1980).34 In contrast, the
Commonwealth government has sovereignty over the territorial
sea (twelve miles from the low-water mark), including the sea-
bed beneath the coastal waters’ three nautical miles and up to
the exclusive economic zone (“EEZ”) boundary (two hundred
miles from the low-water mark) (Seas and Submerged Land
Act 1973).35 Following a series of legal disputes, the Offshore
Constitutional Settlement of 1975 (“Settlement”) settled the
arrangements between States and Commonwealth.36 These
complex arrangements include special clauses for a range of
activities, such as the extraction of oil, gas, and other seabed
minerals, shipping, marine pollution, and fishing.37 Importantly,
the Settlement also lays out arrangements for the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park and reefs in “other marine parks.”38
Despite complex marine jurisdictional issues, Australia
has developed strong legislative tools for the establishment and
management of MPAs. Combined with genuine, coordinated
efforts between the National and State levels in recent years,
these tools provide for a generally effective management of
MPAs.39 MPAs at the Commonwealth level are managed by
the Department for the Environment (the Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park has its own agency but reports to the Environment
Minister).40 The Commonwealth has a major legislative instru-
ment under which MPAs located in Commonwealth waters
are established: the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act 1999 (“EPBCA”) constitutes the main
national law for environmental protection in Australia.41 The
Act provides direction as to how a Commonwealth marine
reserve is to be created and managed.42 It also requires the
Environment Minister to decide whether an environmental
assessment of significant development projects (public or pri-
vate) is required.43 This requirement affords the Commonwealth
final say in deciding whether to approve major developments in
all States and Territories.44 This not only prevents local interests
from dominating the approval decision, but indirectly protects
Commonwealth marine reserves that could be harmed by these
28 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY
developments - for example, via pollution dumping or the loss
of coastal habitats from clear-cutting.45
Another strength of Australian MPA management is
its clear definition of MPAs. All MPAs fall under either the
“Commonwealth reserve” or “conservation zone.”46 They are
formally defined according to the 1994 International Union for
Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”) as “[a]n area of land and/or sea
especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of bio-
logical diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources,
and managed through legal or other effective means.47 MPAs
are further categorized using one or more of the seven IUCN
protected area management categories under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations.48 Under
Australian law, however, States are responsible for the protec-
tion and daytoday management of environmentally-sensitive or
significant areas within coastal waters, and each State has devel-
oped its own set of rules and regulations in that respect.49 Some
States have developed more expertise in MPA management than
others: Queensland is advanced with its collaborative manage-
ment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, through which it has
developed experience to manage other areas, such as the recently
rezoned Moreton Bay offshore of Brisbane.50 Western Australia,
Victoria, and New South Wales also have strong MPA manage-
ment regimes for their inshore marine parks.51 States like South
Australia, on the other hand, are just starting to investigate the
possibility of establishing marine parks in their coastal waters.52
Cooperative management efforts between the Common-
wealth and State governments have existed since 1991 in the
context of the National Representative System of Marine
Protected Areas (“NRSMPA”), established mainly to expand
Australia’s marine reserve system.53 The Marine Protected Areas
Working Group is specifically tasked with the coordination of
Commonwealth, State, and Ter ritory MPA-related policy and
planning; however, this coordination remains high-level and
lacks a true “on-ground” dimension.54
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (“Park”) represents
Australia’s most successful collaboration between State and
Commonwealth governments to protect coral reefs.55 The vast-
ness of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (encompassing
344,400 km2 area, 2,900 individual reefs, 900 islands, and 70 dif-
ferent habitat types)56 required both level of government to join
forces in 1979, under the Emerald Agreement (“Agreement”)
between Queensland and Australia.57 The Agreement dictated
that the Commonwealth would take the lead in park manage-
ment, while Queensland would take lead daytoday management
and both levels would closely collaborate in the permitting and
enforcement side of management.58 The Agreement also created
the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council, which facilitates
ongoing discussions between Federal and State ministers who
set high-level directions for the management of the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park.59 In 2009 the Great Barrier Reef Marine
Park Intergovernmental Agreement updated and reaffirmed the
Emerald Agreement, solidifying continued collaboration for the
coming years.60
One of the most effective collaborative management
tools established by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the
zoning of the Park, which increased no-take areas in the Park
from 4.5% to 33% in 2004 following a thorough review and
extensive stakeholder consultation.61 This initiative has already
proven successful with research showing increases in coral
trout (a key target for fishers), shark numbers in newly pro-
tected zones,62 and larval connections between protected zones
and areas open to fisheries.63 This zoning tool is now being
replicated in Queensland and other States, and will inspire the
management of new marine parks currently considered by the
Commonwealth’s Marine Bioregional Planning Program.64
Zoning is being further complemented by other management
measures such as special area designations, specific and detailed
management plans, no-anchoring areas, as well as partnership
programs and policies.65
Another key aspect of marine park management is the
evaluation of management effectiveness. This evaluation was
championed by IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas
and was formally conducted following the 2005 review of the
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, leading to the release
of the first Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report in September
2009.66 In general, this report has set innovative strategic direc-
tions for management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,
and is a useful reference point future management processes in
Australia and other areas in the world.67
FRANCE: A DEVELOPING, COMPLEX SYSTEM
Although France began protecting patches of reef as early
as 1972 (when Taiaro Atoll in French Polynesia was declared a
scientific reserve and later in 1975 a Biosphere Reserve of the
Man and Biosphere Programme),68 it only recently started to
formalize and centralize arrangements to protect marine
areas with the creation of the Marine Protected Areas Agency
(“AAMP”) in 2006.69 However, even with this advancement,
France’s MPA management regime encompasses many tools,
institutions, and regulations that lack clarity and coherence,
demonstrating that France has not yet achieved an efficient
system of marine park management.
One of the noteworthy aspects of the regime, as it pertains
to coral reefs, is France’s overseas territories (”Outre-Mer”)
policy.70 In mainland France (the “Metropole”), the national
government is responsible for developing environmental law;
however the ‘Outre-Mer’ territories all have various degrees of
autonomy from France’s national government and law.71 The
overseas island Departments (“Départements d’Outre-Mer” or
“DOMs”) of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, and Reunion are
almost under the exact same regime as other Metropole regions,
except for some minor differences.72 The territorial collectivities
(“COMs”) of Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin in the French
West Indies, and Wallis, Futuna, and French Polynesia in the
Pacific are more autonomous.73 For instance, the onus of natural
resource protection and park management in Saint Martin lies
with France74 whereas New Caledonia has a unique status
with independent environmental legislation, management, and
29WINTER 2012
protection. There, the three “provinces,” Nord, Sud and Iles
Loyauté, can each legislate its own environmental issues.75 In
2009 Province Sud adopted an Environment Code that strengthens
ecosystem protection by requiring government authorization
for a number of development initiatives, including projects that
may decrease World Heritage values of its coral reef lagoon.76 It
is interesting to note, however, that this independence is not
recognized under international law, such as in the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”) which recog-
nizes France as the sovereign state.77
Clipperton, an uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific, follows
yet another unique structure. Clipperton is a part of France’s public
land and directly administered by the French Department in charge
of overseas territories via French Polynesia’s High Commissioner.78
In the Pacific, the onus of France’s MPA management now lies with
local government, which creates extra challenges as coral protec-
tion measures can conflict with subsistence activities within coastal
communities.79 In addition, local governments are ill-equipped to
deal with the management of large MPAs which are progressively
being declared in that region.80
TABLE 1. CHARACTERISTICS OF FRENCH OUTRE-MER TERRITORIES
Main
Pressure Location Status Land size
(km2)
Pop.
size
Reef
morphology Human threats Status of coral reefs Reef area
(km2)
COASTAL
DEVLPT,
WATER
QUALITY
Guadeloupe Department 1,806 447,000
(2006) Fringing reefs
coastal development
agriculture
population growth
Degrading 200
Martinique Department 1,100 399,000
(2006) Fringing reefs
agriculture
chemical industry
water quality, catch-
ment runoff
Degrading 150
Reunion Department 2,512 784,000
(2006) Fringing reefs
coastal development
agriculture
Industry runoff
recreational fishing
Degrading 12
Mayotte Depar tment 375 187,000
(2007) Barrier reef
coastal development
agriculture
domestic and indus-
trial waste
tourism
Good health 1,500
MINING,
FISHING
New
Caledonia
Sui-generis
collectivity 18,585 231,000
(2004) Barrier reef
nickel mines
catchment runoff
recreational and
commercial fishing
coastal development
(Noumea)
Good health
(for 83% of the
stations)
40,000
French
Polynesia Collectivity 3,430 295,000
(2011)
Barrier reef
(Society
islands), atolls
(Tuamotu)
dredging
fishing
unsustainable
harvesting
catchment runoff
tourism
Good health
(Very good health
for Tuamotu
atolls)
12,800
CLIMATE
CHANGE
Wallis and
Futuna Collectivity 142 15 000
(2003)
Barrier reef
(Wallis)
catchment runoff
agriculture
fishing
Relatively good
health 65
Clipperton
Natural
public
domain of
France
2 0 Fringing reefs none Good health 4
Eparses
Islands
5th district
of the
French
Austral
lands
23 0 Fringing reefs degassing
oil traffic Good health 21
30 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY
This diversity of regimes adds to the complexity of marine
park management and may jeopardize the efficiency of a
nationally-led policy on coral reef protection. Until recently,
France lacked a national law on sea protection, resulting in a
myriad of overlapping and uncoordinated local decrees on spe-
cific sectors or species, both in the Metropole and Outre-Mer.81
Existing MPAs fall under a range of different categories which
often fail to line up with IUCN categories, such as those for World
Heritage, “prefectoral” decree, “national natural reserves,” spe-
cial marine reserves, or “maritime area plan of management.”82
However, some of these laws, including the new European Integrated
Maritime Policy (2007), its Marine Strategy Framework Directive
(2008), and the 2000 Water Framework Directive (which applies to
marine coastal waters in all French DOMs) have each influenced
creation of the Grenelle de la Mer in 2009 (“Grenelle”).83
The Grenelle is a nation-wide initiative, based on the model
of the 2007 “Grenelle de l’environnement” (environmental
roundtables), which facilitated open, multi-party discussions,
reflections, and negotiations between all stakeholders—national
and local government, fishermen, ports, nongovernmental
organizations, private sector, parliamentary unions, scientific
institutions, etc.—on sea-related aspects to find consensus on a
range of sea-related themes.84 Led by the French Ministry for
the Environment in 2009, this initiative, although mostly focused
on development activities, reaffirmed France’s commitment to
develop a network of MPAs in ten percent of France’s EEZ by
2012 (to reach twenty percent in 2020).85 It also compiled the
main proposals and commitments for the following five years in
a single “blue paper” to create a national strategy for the sea and
oceans and provide strategic outlooks for its coastal and marine
areas.86 Some of the proposals that have already been imple-
mented are several new marine parks, including a vast park in
Mayotte and another in the Eparses Islands.87 Other concrete and
ambitious targets, including a government buy-out of one-third
of France’s coastal land by 2020, a forty percent reduction in
nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) entering the sea, and a strategy
to reduce marine debris both in rivers, ports, and the sea.88
This Grenelle initiative is a major step toward a clear and
comprehensive law on marine protection and management.
Regulations promulgated under this initiative are gradually
building on France’s existing legislation and instruments, such
as its national biodiversity Sea Plan strategy, which encourages
overseas territories to protect species and spaces by creating
new protected areas.89 The Sea Plan was recently reinforced by
France’s adherence to the Convention of Biological Diversity’s
Nagoya Protocol that was adopted in 2010.90 The Marine
Protected Areas Agency is taking the lead in implementing most
of the proposals set out during the Grenelle exercise, such as
the one to establish a “navy blue belt” of MPAs, complementing
the “green belt” of terrestrial parks that cover 12.4% of the
French territory.91
The devil lies in the details of Outre-Mer implementation,
where tools and institutions available to implement such an
ambitious policy vary greatly in size, capacity, and orientation.
Any policy stemming from France’s new strategy should include
a system that can adapt to each island’s individual situation.
Although all of the islands have their own geomorphologic and
social particularities (as illustrated in Table 1), the most important
aspect at stake in evaluating coral reef protection is identifying
the types of threats that are predominant in each island and
addressing them as a priority. Analyzing threats will allow the
relevant governing agency to determine which policy should be
developed as priority, taking into account cultural aspects and
coral reef resource use in each overseas territory.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: HOW FRANCE AND
AUSTRALIA CAN LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
SHORTFALLS IN GOVERNANCE SYSTEMS
The above short analysis of French and Australian coral
reef governance systems allows us to pinpoint their shortfalls. In
France, although the national maritime strategy adopted through
the Grenelle de la Mer and the 2009 “Blue Book” is promising,
profound cultural change and a clear reorganization of agencies’
portfolios is needed to ensure the success of its implementation.
Ultimately, two main challenges remain: 1) better coordination
between agencies and industries involved directly or indirectly
in the protection of the sea (local governments, marine tourism
industries, ports, fisheries sector, etc.); and 2) clear definition of
roles and functions between France and Outre-Mer to avoid the
difficulties in the past, including the duplication or even “com-
petition” between institutions and agencies.92 This is perhaps
the biggest challenge for France, especially given the need to
take fast unilateral climate change action, as can be adopted
in Metropole, and the march toward greater autonomy that
has been taking place in the last twenty years.93 To complicate
matters further, the movement toward autonomy is especially
prominent among the Pacific Islands where greater powers in
environmental management have been locally-allocated.94 This
situation puts France in a challenging situation where it could be
accused of “neo-colonialism” if forces environmental reforms
upon Outre-Mer institution. At the same time, as one of the larg-
est maritime nations in the world, France could be blamed with
inaction if it does not fulfill its marine protection targets.
In addition, resources need to be allocated to ensure
successful administration and enforcement of new MPAs consti-
tuting the “marine blue belt.” The example of the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park reveals the benefits of investing in MPA
management: a recent paper published by twentyone renowned
marine scientists has shown that the investment in management
of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park represents less than one
percent of its return to the Australian economy.95 In France, such
investment would prevent debacles like La Reunion where the
marine reserve created in 2007 was “not fully operational due to
delays in implementation caused by conflicts between traditional
fishermen and the authorities, inadequate planning and poor
integrated coastal zone management.”96 Investment in enforce-
ment and compliance is particularly crucial to prevent MPAs
from remaining mere “paper parks.” However, the French system
is complex on that matter due to its unusual historical marine
compliance system, with so-called “maritime prefects” (who are
31WINTER 2012
State representatives) exerting authority over the sea (including
illegal fishing) in defined regions.97 In Outre-Mer, these func-
tions are fulfilled by the “standard” prefect in the Departments,
and by High Commissioners in Polynesia and New Caledonia.98
Australia’s system, although more lucid than France’s, also suf-
fers from a lack of coordination in State waters, leading to great dis-
parity in State management regimes.99 Despite efforts to coordinate
initiatives between State and Commonwealth authorities, duplica-
tions, misunderstandings, and confusion remain.100 Thankfully,
efforts are underway to coordinate management regimes and
exchange best practices nationwide at a practitioner level.101 This
was demonstrated by the first National Moorings Forum held in
Melbourne in October 2009 which gathered park managers from all
States to progress a national mooring standard.102
PROTECTING THE PRISTINE: SCIENTIFIC COLLABORATION
AND ON-GROUND COOPERATION
As climate change becomes a clearer and sharper threat,
increasing efforts to effectively protect some of the healthiest
coral reefs in the world is more important than ever.103 Australia
and France share a moral and economic responsibility to protect
their reefs and enhanced cooperation in this field would be mutually
beneficial. Cooperation at the research level seems an obvious and
relatively easy way to start this collaboration effort. Initiatives have
already been taken with both countries having created “Centres of
Excellence” for coral reef research: the Centre of Excellence on
Coral Reef Studies, created in 2005 in Australia, hosts Australia’s
leading coral reef scientists under eight programs;104 while the
“Laboratoire d’Excellence Corail,” established in 2011 in France,
gathers almost all French coral reef scientists under a ten-year pro-
gram themed “Coral Reefs Facing Climate Change.”105
Still, existing efforts need to be intensified to reach interna-
tional marine protection targets, and capitalize on the opportunity
to protect vast areas of high ecological significance with relatively
low use. Protecting reefs that remain undisturbed is all the more
important because many other coral reefs systems are located
near densely populated areas with high human impacts, such as
the so-called “coral triangle,” deemed the epicentre of coral reef
biodiversity,106 which includes Indonesia and the Philippines.107
France can formalize the protection of vast areas of uninhabited
islands or islands with low population density, such as the
Eparses Islands, Clipperton, Wallis, and Futuna.108 In Australia,
the Coral Sea (which ranges from the eastern side of the Great
Barrier Reef Marine Park to the outer limit of the EEZ) is an ideal
candidate for formal protection with its pristine reefs, vast range
of habitats, and high biodiversity.109 The Australian government
declared the Coral Sea a “conservation zone” in 2009 and, more
recently, on November 25, 2011, released a draft proposal for
public comment as part of the bioregional planning process.110
If Australia formalizes protection of this region it would likely
include a no-take area of 507,487 km2, which is more than half
of its total area.111 France could also provide protected area
status to its part of the Coral Sea between the Lagoons of the
New Caledonia World Heritage Site and the international bound-
ary with the Australian EEZ (which would represent more than
thirteen percent of France’s overall EEZ (11,035,000 km2).112
An agreement between Australia and New Caledonia/France to
protect and manage the whole area of the Coral Sea would estab-
lish the first transboundary marine park in the world, protecting
marine resources far offshore and sending a signal of political will
to reinforce the protection of international waters in the world.113
CONCLUSION
France and Australia have each increased their efforts to
meet the 2012 international target of protecting ten percent of
their waters, as well as adapting management to the imminent
threats of climate change.114 If they want to be strategic about
achieving this goal, both countries could build upon each other’s
experience and cooperate with managing these threats with. For
example, they could establish a process to manage transboundary
MPAs. Whether or not transboundary marine parks are established,
however, France could benefit from Australia’s expertise in marine
park management, both in terms of policy-making and enforce-
ment.115 In turn, Australia still needs to strengthen some aspects
of its marine park management regimes, such as its fisheries and
compliance systems; it could also benefit from France’s governance
experience with its historically centralized regime that clearly delin-
eates functions and powers at various government levels.
A myriad of international organizations and forums exist
to facilitate cooperation efforts. The International Coral Reef
Initiative (“ICRI”) seems the most appropriate international
forum for France and Australia to cooperate, and also to share
experience, expertise, and knowledge on coral reef management
with other countries. France invested considerable effort into
reviving the ICRI concept when it hosted the management sec-
retariat from 2009 to 2011.116 As Australia is now the new host
of the ICRI, the opportunity for collaboration between France
and Australia could be enhanced.117 A rich exchange of experi-
ences, views, and information between the countries responsible
for these coral reefs will provide the opportunity to protect them
from the threats of climate change and preserve some of the
most astounding and valuable ecosystems in the world.
Endnotes: Preventing Coral Grief: A Comparison of Australian and
French Coral Reef Protection Strategies In a Changing Climate
1 MARK SPALDING ET AL., WORLD ATLAS OF CORAL REEFS 10, 302 (2008).
2 J. Mor rissey, State of Coral Reefs in French Overseas Departments and
Territories: New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia, Clipperton,
Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Reunion, Mayotte, Scattered Indian Ocean Islands
2 (Oct. 16, 2000) (unpublished paper), http://www.reefbase.org/download/
download.aspx?type=10&docid=7194.
3 SPALDING ET AL., supra note 1, at 11, 27, 59.
continued on page 63