June 1, 2014
French Polynesia is home to the world's largest contiguous exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, the waters over which the territory has jurisdiction. At almost 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles), the expanse surrounds fi ve archipelagoes—the Austral, Society, Marquesas, Tuamotu, and Gambier—and is equal in size to the land area of the European Union. Spanning 118 islands, French Polynesia's waters hold a wealth of marine life. Twenty-one shark species and an exceptional coral reef system that is home to 176 coral and 1,024 fi sh species are found here. The richness of the fl ora and fauna, along with the spectacular natural beauty, contributes greatly to the local economy, particularly tourism, fi shing, and pearl farming. In recognition of this marine treasure, the government of French Polynesia announced in November 2013 a commitment to protect at least 20 percent of its waters—about 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles)—by 2020. Protection on this level would make French Polynesia a Pacifi c and global leader in ocean conservation, while highlighting and preserving its deep Polynesian ocean heritage for current and future generations.