10 Oct 2017

Niue marine park to preserve ocean for future generations

1:05 pm on 10 October 2017

Niue has just announced a new marine park in a bid to conserve and protect its marine resources for future generations.

Black tip reef shark

Photo: Flickr/ Geoff Shuetrim

The leader of the tiny nation with a population of about 1600 has turned 40 percent of the nation's Exclusive Economic Zone into a protected sanctuary.

Premier Sir Toke Talagi announced the initiative this month.

"I believe that our ancestors used to invest like that but for much shorter periods of time and here are the reasons why I am calling this an intergenerational one because it will involve the future children and children and so on. And I believe that is very very important for us."

The 126,909 square kilometre or 49,000 square mile area of ocean provides one of the world's best habitats for reef sharks in the world.

The move is significant as shark populations have sharply declined by more than 90 percent globally.

Sir Toke Talagi said it shows that Niue cares about what's happening around them and the oceans, especially with the effects of climate change.

Toke TalagiToke Talagi

Toke Talagi Photo: RNZ/ Sara Vui-Talitu

"As you know climate change and all the things happening with respect to that is caused by people who are well outside Niue. But unfortunately climate change does not have any borders."

The impacts of climate change is seeing waters become warmer and more acidic and the island is also still recovering from HETA, a category 5 cyclone that did major damage back in 2004.

Overfishing in the region is also a big problem, and Sir Toke Talagi said commercial fishing will be banned.

He said that policing the big ocean area does have some challenges.

"Well that is an interesting thing. And I have been asking people to get us a drone so we can use it for the EEZ and a drone in my view is probably better than a patrol boat because we can get it to fly up and around quickly and easily and take some photos and bring them back or take some live photos using satellite and so on. "

He is adamant it it not a personal legacy project for him, but a project for Niue.

"For me personally it is not but for Niue it is. I believe that we have got to show leadership on these things to make sure that people are aware and hopefully follow us or go with us into the future," he said.

"One of the things that I am always concerned about is that climate change is causing so many changes that investments we have done with respect to the economies that we have done business with around the world is negative and we have to do something about that to make it more positive."

Scientifically supported by a National Geographic society pristine seas project a group from here explored the island's waters in Sept 2016.

Their 18 day expedition saw some dazzling marine life, including 300 species of fish, the little known Blainville beaked whale and three species of globally endangered sea turtles.