France is the only country in the world with coral reefs in the three oceans of the world.

The reefs and lagoons covering 57 557km2 (source: Andréfouët et al, 2008 Atlas reefs France overseas, IRD.), Averaging twice the surface of the Earth’s land they surround.


8 French communities overseas are home to nearly 10% and 20% of coral atolls in the world.

Thanks in large part to the presence of reefs, France has the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world with over 11 million km2 communities overseas account for over 90% of the national maritime space.

The French communities overseas surrounded by coral reefs are distributed as follows:

  • Pacific Ocean: New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Clipperton;
  • Indian Ocean: Reunion, Mayotte and the Scattered islands;
  • Atlantic Ocean: Martinique, Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, Désirade, Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin.


These communities have a strong geographical diversity: land masses may extend for 2 km ² Clipperton 18 000 km ² for Polynesia. Types of islands and reefs are also very different: continental islands with barrier reefs, fringing reefs surrounded by high, atoll islands

Coral Reefs in France - Les coraux en France - Coral Guardian

France thus has a global responsibility for conservation and sustainable management of coral reefs and mangroves and seagrass beds that are linked to them.

France, a unique reef in the world heritage

France is the only country in the world with coral reefs in three oceans.

These various contexts give them an exceptional diversity. Our country is home to 10% of the world’s coral reefs (4th rank – 55,000 km2), located in eight communities overseas tropical whose local economy is heavily dependent on this ecosystem: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis

and Futuna and the scattered islands of the Indian Ocean. 95% of French coral reefs are located in the Pacific Ocean (French Polynesia and New Caledonia).


The coral reefs of New Caledonia were classified as World Heritage Site in 1998. For France, this is a global recognition of the originality and importance of its reefs are 16,000 km2 of protected about 40,000 km2 in existing French overseas coral reef ecosystem.

Coral reefs

Internationally recognized as one of the richest environments in the world, coral reefs and their associated ecosystems, seagrass beds and mangroves, are huge reservoirs of biodiversity, world heritage treasures.


In tropical seas, corals are tireless builders of reefs, walls largest ever made by living creatures. They offer their host countries, and more generally to the whole world, wealth of invaluable, both ecologically, economically, socially and culturally.

The coral reef ecosystem: a threatened wealth

Coral reefs are distributed globally on 700 000 km2 in over a hundred countries, mostly developing. Their richness in terms of biodiversity, is indisputable and is often compared to that of the equatorial forests: one square kilometer of reef contains more species than into account the European coast. They allow economic development – fishing, aquaculture, pearl, decoration, medicine, mining, construction, tourism.Over the last 240 million years, reefs have evolved into one of the largest and most complex ecosystems on the planet. The reefs are home to more than 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral, and thousands of other plant and animal life. Scientists estimate that, in total, more than one million species of plants and animals are associated with the coral reef ecosystem.

They are a resource of vital importance to the diet plan: an estimated half-billion people live more or less reefs. They offer a natural coastal protection and a sewage ponds role. In some parts of the world, populations are closely related to coral, culturally and traditions.

Yet it is estimated that reefs have lost 20% of their area because of human activity, especially in highly urbanized coastal areas. According to the 2008 report produced by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), 54% of current world’s reefs are threatened.

Among them, 15% are likely to disappear in the next 10 to 20 years (especially in southeastern Asia and the Caribbean). The main causes of this decline are filling practices, fishing, coastal pollution and generally increasing population pressure. Natural degradation (cyclones, tsunamis, influx of invasive predators) and rising ocean temperatures due to climate change also contribute to the gradual disappearance of reefs.

Bleaching gained in frequency, geographical distribution and intensity over the past 40 years and there is currently no evidence that corals can adapt to the phenomenon.


This exceptional situation gives France a special responsibility to safeguard coral reefs.
Globally, France is a founding member of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). The governments of the United States, Australia, France, Jamaica, Japan, the Philippines, Sweden and the United Kingdom, with agencies such as the World Bank and UNEP, recognized the growing problems of coral reefs. They launched the ICRI in 1994 at the conference on small island developing States. This commitment has resulted in the creation in France in 1999, the French Initiative for Coral Reefs (Ifrecor) National action taken on the decision of the Prime Minister. The initiative covers all actions and measures for the reefs.


The issues are the protection and sustainable management of coral reef communities overseas territories.’s National action plan for coral reefs, founder IFRECOR text, adopted in 2000, focuses on six axes strategic:


  • Planning;
  • Reducing the negative effects of human activities and sustainable development;
  • The development of research, monitoring and tools for decision support;
  • Information, training and education;
  • The development of means of regulatory and financial work;
  • The development of regional cooperation.

The last meeting of the National Committee IFRECOR was held in 2010 in Reunion. It was an opportunity to adopt the third action plan (2011-2014) Initiative, which was given the following objectives:


  • Encouraging the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas;
  • Increase scientific knowledge on coral reefs of the French overseas communities;
  • Assess the socio-economic value of coral reef communities in French overseas;
  • Raise awareness of the issues of conservation of coral reefs and associated ecosystems;
  • Contribute to the observation of the effect of climate change.
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