PARIS: Located in the South Pacific in Polynesia, the island country Niue has all the makings of a secluded corner of paradise to inspire dreams of idyllic holidays, away from it all.
But this autonomous state, which covers an area of about 260 km and is located to the north of New Zealand, is fighting to preserve its oceans and corals, which are being severely tested by global warming.
To ensure maximum protection of its waters, after announcing plans to protect 40% of its ocean in 2020, the country has implemented an even more ambitious policy in recent months, creating a multi-purpose marine nature park called “Niue Nukutuluea” and stating that it will now protect 100% of its ocean.
The park extends over several parts of Niue’s territory, including a coral island located off the coast of the country to which only scientists can get access. Fishing is strictly forbidden.
However, some other specific areas allow activities such as traditional canoe fishing or scuba diving.
Up to NZ$500,000 in fines
The goal of this marine park (which is ambitious to say the least) is to protect 100% of the ocean surrounding the country.
Any person who does not respect the measures governing this new marine park is exposed to a heavy fine: up to 500,000 New Zealand dollars.
“We can bring much larger penalties to bear, depending on the nature of the offense,” Brendon Pasisi, Niue’s director of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, told UK-based media The Guardian.
The protected areas of Niue Nukutuluea are monitored via a satellite observation system managed by the company Global Fishing Watch.
Neighbouring countries (Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands) also carry out surveillance, in particular to identify illegal fishing activities.
To address climate change and its disastrous consequences on the environment, many governments are imposing restrictions on human activities in specific areas, which are then designated marine protected areas.
Worldwide, there are over 14,000 marine protected areas. In 2012, the Cook Islands announced the creation of the largest natural marine park covering the southern half of the country’s waters and in recent years also doubled down on protecting 100% of its ocean.