Papua New Guinea

Protecting Marine Life and Human Needs in Kimbe Bay

Volcanoes, Rainforests and Coral Reefs

Kimbe Bay lies on the north coast of the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea’s largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago. The island's landscape is dominated by rainforest-covered volcanic cones that rise steeply out of the water, some reaching heights of over 2,000 meters close to shore. Four of these volcanoes are active.

But it is Kimbe Bay's wide variety of marine habitats — coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, deep ocean waters and seamounts — that make the area a global conservation priority. The bay is part of the Coral Triangle, home to an incredible 76 percent of the world’s coral species. Whales, dolphins and sharks feed and breed in the bay's waters.

More than twice the size of Delaware, Kimbe Bay also supports thousands of people who rely on its coral reefs for their food and livelihoods.

A Rich Marine Area at Risk

More than half of Papua New Guinea’s reefs are threatened. Like many coastal areas throughout the world, Kimbe Bay’s rich marine biodiversity is at risk from overfishing, sedimentation and the effects of climate change. These effects include coral bleaching caused by higher sea temperatures and rising sea levels, which threaten to destroy coastal habitats that animals and people depend on.

To protect Kimbe’s natural resources and the livelihoods of its people, the Conservancy helped design the Kimbe Bay Marine Management Area, one of the first marine protected area (MPA) networks in the world that incorporates both human needs and principles of coral reef resilience to withstand impacts from climate change.

Conservancy staff worked with experts and partners for more than two years to design the MPA network in Kimbe Bay. By protecting resilient coral reefs and linking MPAs through ocean currents, the network will ensure that coral reefs can survive the effects of rising sea temperatures and allow coral larvae from healthy reefs to replenish those affected by bleaching. The MPA network design team also included human factors in the equation, conducting socioeconomic studies to address the marine resource needs of local communities.

From Idea to Action

In addition to working with communities to implement the MPA design, we have also made significant progress toward helping local governments and communities build the skills, knowledge and infrastructure to lead this work. Incorporating local management into MPAs helps build stronger communities and alleviate poverty.

As the Conservancy strives to create effectively managed, large-scale and resilient MPAs, the lessons learned in Kimbe Bay will help us ensure the survival of coral reef ecosystems throughout the world.

Linking Land and Water

The health of Kimbe Bay’s marine areas is closely linked to the health of the surrounding terrestrial environment. Like many places in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, Kimbe Bay's forests and lowland tropical areas are threatened by deforestation.

Much of the area around Kimbe Bay has already been cleared by logging companies and re-planted with commercial crops, such as oil palm. The oil from these palm trees is an increasingly popular ingredient in many cosmetics and food products — and, most recently, biofuel for motorized vehicles.

Run-off and sedimentation caused by commercial crops, small-scale forestry and other land-use practices, including village gardens and urban and infrastructure developments, threaten the bay's marine environment. The Conservancy is working with partners and governments to implement land-use practices that will maintain biodiversity.

In addition improving land-use practices, the Conservancy is promoting sustainable practices in the sea. We're collaborating with experts and partners in Kimbe Bay to develop strategies that ensure fisheries are managed sustainably and destructive fishing practices are minimized. By linking conservation on land and in water, we have a better chance of protecting Kimbe Bay and ensuring a sustainable future for nature and people.

Help preserve special places like Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea for marine life and human needs.

Fast Facts about Kimbe Bay


More than half of the world's coral species can be found in Kimbe Bay.


Kimbe Bay is part of the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity covering an area of 2.3 million square miles of ocean. The Nature Conservancy and our partners are working to protect this expansive and biodiverse area through on-site conservation, technical support and policy.


Scientists believe Kimbe Bay has more than 820 species of coral reef fish, which far exceeds the diversity of the Hawaiian Islands and the entire Caribbean. Kimbe Bay is home to the world’s smallest seahorse, the pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti), which grows to approximately ¾ of an inch.


Kimbe Bay hosts sperm whales, orcas, blue whales, spinner dolphins, dugong and many other mammals. Endangered leatherback, green and hawksbill sea turtles nest and feed here.


The island of New Britain is home to a number of species of marsupials — including bandicoots, sugar gliders, cuscuses, possums and wallabies — and twenty-eight species of bats.


The tropical rain forests of New Britain are home to 193 species of butterflies, the world’s largest moth (the female Hercules moth can have a wingspan of 9¾ inches) and 146 species of birds — 13 of which are found nowhere else on Earth.


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