South Pacific Observatory Project

Subsea observatory in the South Pacific and its surrounding ocean:
Scientific frontiers and technical challenges

Workshop Sumary & Project Foundations

New Caledonian waters are internationally recognized for their outstanding high diversity of habitats, variety of life, and general good health, from the deep seafloor to the surface and lagoon. This diversity capitalizes on the contrasted nature and depth of its seafloor, from subduction zone to seamounts and plateaus, and on a complex tropical oceanography. In 2014, the New Caledonia Government decided to enact the Coral Sea Natural Park, covering its entire EEZ as a multi-use large marine protected area, hence making New Caledonia a potential field laboratory for sustainable maritime development in the South Pacific. With such a vision of a sustainable blue economy including oceanic technology development, and because of the vitality of its research ecosystems including IRD, IFREMER, the New Caledonia University and CNRS, New Caledonia was naturally proposed to be at the heart of this project.

A first ‘Maritime Dialogue’ Seminar on “Enhancing a Maritime Cooperative Relationship between France and Japan” (13-14 December 2018), with reference to three Franco-Japanese and international workshops (2015, 2017, 2018) and led to a recommendation towards a Franco-Japanese scientific collaboration project on ocean observation in the South Pacific Ocean (here after Observatory Project). Recalling the joint communiqué issues by the 2+2 Franco-Japanese ministries in January 2019, both nations affirmed their willingness to strengthen the dialogue in the Pacific region, as well as “to encourage the development of concrete initiative in important issues of seas and oceans, such as ocean governance, science & innovation, environment (plastic pollutions), blue economy, maritime security and technological & industrial collaborations.” The Observatory Project initiative could consolidate the long-standing maritime cooperation between the two countries as well as tackle challenges set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and underpin the roadmap of UN Decade of Ocean Science.