The North and South Pacific region is approximately 10,000 km east to west and 5,000 km north to south and comprises numerous islands of varying sizes (Papua New Guinea being the largest while Nauru, Tokelau and Tuvalu are each less than 30 square km in area). The marine environment is broadly tropical, extending north and south of the Equator. The broad pattern of marine biodiversity is a gradient of decreasing numbers of species from west to east and from warm equatorial waters away from the equator to more temperate waters. The western Pacific, of which this region is a part, has the highest marine biodiveristy in the world.
Key coastal marine ecosystems that characterise the region include mangroves, coastal lagoons coral reefs, seamounts, ridges, trenches and the pelagic ecosystem, which sustaines the world's largest remaining stocks of tuna. The area is significant for humpback whale migratory routes between breeding and feeding grounds in the north and the south Pacific. Other important marine species that are rare or globally threatened include turtles (6 species), saltwater crocodiles, dugong and sharks.
The indigenous people of the region are either Micronesian, Melanesian or Polynesian and are related to pan-Pacific migrations over the past two thousand years. More recent influences of French, British, Japanese and U.S. cultures have resulted in a wide diversity of people, cultures and languages. Traditional practices and customs are strongly focused on the coastal marine area, as many communities rely heavily on coastal and nearshore marine resources for subsistance needs.
Major threats to the Pacific region's biodiversity include a decline in coral reefs through bleaching, disease, runoff and nutrient enrichment, overfishing and sea level rise.
Department of Conservation