New Caledonian leaders have been told that the territory's coral reef could be declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008.
A progress report has been tabled which would set up six protection zones around New Caledonia.
With a length of 1,600 kilometres, the reef is the world's second biggest and widely seen as a unique place of biodiversity similar to the African island of Madagascar.
A submission is due by the end of January if France wants to move on the proposal to declare the reef a heritage site.
Last year, the French president, Jacques Chirac, told a UNESCO conference in Paris that France would work towards the protection of the reef with a view to have it declared a heritage site.