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Healthy reefs, healthy people: Community-based marine conservation in Papua New Guinea (commentary)

07 / 06 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

A blessed country of spectacular landscapes and the most diverse array of cultures on Earth, Papua New Guinea is also a global hotspot for biodiversity. Just in terms of species, the South Pacific nation has more birds than all of North America, over three-quarters of the world’s hard corals, and at least 2,000 reef fish. At least 131 kinds of sharks and rays have been documented in its waters, including four species of endangered sawfish. Indeed, the waters of Papua New Guinea and northern Australia appear to be one of the two most important sawfish strongholds in the world, along with the Southeast U.S. Papua New Guinea supports a wealth of marine habitats, ranging from the shallow waters of coastal mangroves, estuaries, and reefs, to the abyssal plains, sea mounts, and hydrothermal vents of the deep — which, off New Britain, can extend over four miles below sea level, one of the deepest points on Earth. With a coastline over 10,000 miles long and an estimated 1,205,000 square miles of marine waters, Papua New Guinea is the best of the best: a key hotspot of marine life nested within a global marine hotspot, the Coral Triangle. Given this, it may come as no surprise that marine resources play a vital role in food security for coastal communities across Papua New Guinea, which, after Australia, is the largest and most populated country in Oceania. The maintenance of marine ecosystem integrity (the health of these habitats) ensures the provision of the goods…

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