The French overseas territory of New Caledonia announced Tuesday the highest possible levels of protection for some of the world’s last unspoiled coral reefs . All types of extraction, including commercial and industrial fishing , has been banned in the Chesterfield, Bellona, Entrecasteaux, Pétrie and Astrolabe coral ecosystems, according to a Tuesday press release from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has long pushed the reefs’ protection. The New Caledonia government voted to set up marine protected areas (MPAs) surrounding the five reefs, safeguarding 28,000 square kilometers (10,810 square miles) of waters in all, AFP reported. President Philippe Germain believes the action has created the largest wilderness reserve in the world, he said in a press conference, as quoted by La Dépêche . Tourist activity is also expected to be rigorously controlled, making it harder for the 600,000 tourists who visit New Caledonia each year to access the sites, Reuters reported. Small eco-tourist groups and researchers may apply for permits for access. The reefs and the surrounding waters provide vital habitats for dugongs, seabirds, nesting green turtles and humpback whales. It’s also home to 1,700 species of fish and 473 different types of coral, according to Pew Charitable Trusts […]

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