Ocean Action Hub

11 Oct 2017 - Niue's  government has recently announced the creation of a large-scale marine protected area encompassing 40 percent of the country's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The proposed sanctuary covers 127 thousand square kilometres of Niue's waters and includes the Beveridge Reef which is home to most of the world's grey reef sharks.

Premier Toke Talagi says the marine reserve is an inter-generational investment in the future of Niue.

Toke Talagi says he wants to show the world that even though Niue is small it can make a contribution to global conservation.

   "To ensure that they can focus their attention on the oceans that they are polluting at the present moment. And as you know climate change, all those things that are happening with respect to that is caused by people who are well outside of Niue but unfortunately climate change doesn't have any borders."

Avi Rubin, Vice President of the marine protection NGO Tofia, says it's a positive assurance for Niueans.

   "For us it means that forty per cent of the zone will basically be fishing free and no exploration of mining or anything like this in the future and it's really good because we know for sure that there's not going to be any heavy fishing pressure on those areas."

The Director of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Poi Okesene, says the government has costed the move away from commercial fishing towards marine conservation.

   "Niue EEZ is not as attractive for fishing wise in terms of the highly migratory fish species like the tuna and also the skipjack tuna. There's only about six fishing vessels who come back to us and we're looking at around $20,000 per fishing vessel on an annual basis."

He says data shows most fishing vessels concentrate on the north western side of the island and the proposed marine area is on the south eastern side of Niue and includes the main reefs.

    "In doing the cost benefit analysis I think there's a lot more at stake in linking with the increasing tourism sector with regards to eco tourism and also Niue taking a stance at the forefront and taking a leading role with regards to conservation of its marine species."

Avi Rubin says reaction from Niue's population of 1600 people is hopeful and positive.

   "We are hoping that the lack of commercial will actually bring a lot more tourists and people will appreciate what we are doing here. The community is 100 per cent behind it, they are very happy that we are doing it."

Poi Okesene says the project group Tofia Niue has just returned from making the announcement at an international oceans conference in Malta where initial donor support was confirmed.

   "The funding came through Oceans 5 which is from all the philanthropists who put in funds to be able to fund this type of work. So they donated one million dollars for Niue to carry out this project. And that is some of the work that has contributed to making this announcement and identifying 40 per cent of the EEZ to set aside as a large marine protected area."

Premier Toke Talagi says climate change impacts are everywhere and he hopes other countries will follow Niue's lead.

   "I hope that by this example that world leaders will look at what we are trying to do and see whether there is a  way for them to work together with us as well to make this world a better place for all of us in the future."

Toke Talagi says he is hoping the zone will be policed using drones and satellite technology.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/...

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Radio New Zealand
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Jenny Meyer