Niue’s Government is to establish a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to covering 40% of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which will ban commercial fishing activity throughout the protected area and allow indigenous, artisanal fishing in limited areas.
The 127,000-square km zone includes much of the waters around Niue itself as well as nearby Beveridge Reef, an uninhabited, semi-sub- merged atoll with the largest density of grey reef sharks in the world.
The formation of the MPA was announced recently at the Our Ocean conference in Malta where Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi, said “Our commitment is not a sacrifice; it is an investment for our future and a tribute to our ancestors. We are proud of this and know that our ancestors would, without doubt, approve. And for our future gener- ations, we hope, will know that we cared about them.”
Director of the Niue Ocean Wide (NOW) project, an initiative by the Niuean community to manage its resources, Brendon Pasisi, said, “Giving up a proportion of commer- cial fisheries opportunities is the foundation of this commitment; it will help Niue safeguard the natural asset, build ecological resilience and allow the island to pursue more sustainable economic, social and environmental opportunities, including greater local food security and more blue tourism.
“It’s no small feat for a tiny, devel- oping island-state to make such a major contribution to ocean conser- vation,” he said.
The announcement drew praise from National Geographic whose Pristine Seas operation took researchers and conservationists to the island last September, where they mapped the area including Beveridge Reef, as one of 17 pristine natural sites in the world and carried out a comprehen- sive biodiversity assessment of the area.
Niue is a large upraised coral atoll 2400km and a 3.5-hour flight north- east of New Zealand, with two flights in and out a week, and a host of natural attractions including some of the clearest ocean water in the world: spectacular snorkeling, diving and fishing, forest and scenic walks and many small coves for safe swimming. The island has a resident Niuean population of around 1600 people and is a self-governing nation aligned closely with New Zealand with its own Parliament and Premier.