Paris, 26 January 2022 (TDI): Tahiti’s coral reefs off the coast are among the largest in the world, as discovered by a scientific research mission supported by UNESCO. The pristine condition of the rose-shaped corals, as well as the size of the area that they cover, makes them an extremely valuable find.

So far, we have been better at recognizing the surface of the moon than the deep ocean. We have only mapped 20% of the seabed. With the help of UNESCO, scientists unearthed this incredible discovery in Tahiti, advancing our understanding of the depths below the surface.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

Amazing Discovery

At a depth of 30 to 65 meters, the reef is located. One of the most extensive healthy coral reefs on record, it extends approximately 3km in length and ranges from 30m to 60m or 65m wide. Enormous rose-shaped coral can reach a diameter of 2 meters.

Until now, most of the world’s coral reefs have been found at depths of up to 25m, producing this an extremely unusual phenomenon. Put differently, this discovery suggests that there are even more large reefs at depths greater than 30 meters in what is known as the twilight zone of the ocean, which we simply do not know about.

Tahiti's Rare coral reef was discovered by UNESCO.
Tahiti’s Rare coral reef was discovered by UNESCO.
For Science, this is a Constructive Step.

UNESCO’s global approach to ocean mapping is illustrated by this expedition. The location of coral reefs can help researchers study biodiversity since they serve as a primary food source for other organisms.

Reef-dwelling organisms can be valuable for research in the medical field, and reefs can provide protection against coastal erosion and even tsunamis.

There was a significant bleaching event in French Polynesia in 2019, but this reef seems essentially unaffected. It is good news that this reef was discovered in such pristine condition, as it could inspire future conservation efforts. The deeper the reef, the greater the protection from global warming.

Laetitia Hedouin, France’s National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS)

Scientists have merely found, investigated, and studied coral reefs at depths of more than 30 meters until now. Thanks to advances in technology, it is presently possible to dive deeper. A total of 200 dives was conducted to study the reef and witness coral spawning. Investigations around the reef will be conducted in the next few months through further dives.

Tahiti's Rare coral reef was discovered by UNESCO.

Oceans: UNESCO’s Action

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), founded in 1960 and joined by 150 nations, coordinates global ocean mapping programs and tsunami warning systems, as well as numerous scientific research projects.

Additionally, the agency protects 232 marine biosphere reserves and 50 marine World Heritage Sites of Outstanding Universal Value. From 2021 to 2030, UNESCO will lead the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will be manifested in several major international summits that will amplify collective mobilization.

The Campaign “1 Ocean, the Anatomy”

The campaign is led by explorer photographer Alexis Rosenfeld in partnership with UNESCO for the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Until 2030, expeditions will be carried out each year across the ocean to witness its assets for humanity, the threats it faces, and the solutions it offers.