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Papua New Guinea

Protecting Marine Life and Human Needs in Kimbe Bay

For more than a decade, The Nature Conservancy has worked with partners and local communities to protect Kimbe Bay's rich lands and waters.

Now the Conservancy has helped design a network of marine protected areas (MPA) in Kimbe Bay that is one of the first in the world to incorporate both human needs and principles of coral reef resilience to withstand impacts from climate change.

Volcanoes, Rainforests and Coral Reefs

Kimbe Bay is located 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

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 ensure that Kimbe’s reefs stay healthy for both people and nature, The Nature Conservancy helped design one of the first 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

With the scientific design of the MPA network completed, the Conservancy is now working to implement the MPAs and strengthen the legal framework for the network. We worked with local Kimbe Bay communities to complete management plans for Tarobi and Lolobau, two of the 14 areas identified in the MPA design.

In addition to working with communities to implement the MPA design, we have also helped the local government draft and implement legislation that allows local communities to enforce the protection of their marine areas. As a recent study shows, 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 oil palms is a key ingredient in many cosmetics, 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 to improved land-use practices and new marine protected areas, the Conservancy is working to develop sustainable marine resource use. 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.

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

Want to know more about conservation strategies in Kimbe Bay? Check out our report about designing MPAs for reef resilience.

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 its 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.

Protecting the World's Center of Ocean Biodiversity

In the heart of the Coral Triangle, the Conservancy has helped design the first network of marine protected areas designed to help corals withstand the deadly pressures of climate change.
Read the full Kimbe Bay report.

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