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Reef Close To Madang Tuna Park “ Most Diverse” Papua News Guinea, March 11, 13

The development in Papua New Guinea’s Madang province could threaten a treasure trove of new species previously unknown to science according to an American scientific team. Madang is the construction site of PNG’s “Pacific Marine Industrial Zone”., where several tuna canneries are planned to be build.
The scientists found special sea slugs, feather stars and amphipods, a shrimp-like animal.

Professor Jim Thomas from Nova Southeastern University’s National Coral Reef Institute says the wealth of species in the search area near Madang is greater than along the entire length of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

“Madang is the most diverse reef you’ve probably never heard of,” he said. “It’s actually an accretion of about 32 different events that have docked once-distant reefs that have developed anywhere from 30 to 50 million years ago. The Great Barrier Reef... has probably stabilized from 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, so it's fairly young in terms of recruiting species.”
Professor Thomas says the factors which led to the strong diversity in the region were also responsible for its high mineral wealth. With a number of mining operations and a large tuna industry park planned for the area, there are concerns about the impact they might have on the species there.
“That part of Papua New Guinea is used to very strong physical impacts, but not chemical impacts. So I think what our interest was to provide a baseline and say ‘it’s still as good as it ever was’, and probably more diverse, and if anything changes from here on out we can probably attribute it to some human-induced impact.”
According to Mr. Thomas, the lagoon remains difficult to access, with the area controlled by several different groups of traditional landowners. The locals who helped out with the expedition were surprised by the findings.

“You’d see these young men would come in and look at the microscope and then stand back, because they didn’t understand what they were seeing. They didn’t know that this kind of life was there on the reef, so they’re very concerned and they’re not sure what to do,” he says.