As the region remains distracted by the enormity of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Niue has pressed ahead and this week formalised the creation of an enormous marine reserve.
NIUE – At a cabinet meeting this week, Niue achieved the final process in establishing its first ever Large Scale Marine Protected Area. The 127,000 square kilometre zone constitutes 40 per cent of Niue’s exclusive economic zone.
The move will raise Niue’s global profile as a pristine ecotourism destination, as will its contribution to global marine conservation.
The Large Scale Marine Protected Area – LSMPA – includes a Special Management Area around the outlying submerged atoll known as Beveridge Reef.
The reef is a “biodiversity jewel in Niue’s ocean crown”, according to a report by New Zealand’s Tagata Pacific.
First mooted five years ago, the Niue Moana Mahu Marine Protected Area has this month been legally established by Niue’s parliament.
Earth Scientist and president of the NGO Tofia Niue, Coral Pasisi, called the landmark achievement, “a great investment in our Earth and for Niueans now and into the future”
Tofia Niue is a local non-profit working with the government of Niue in the Niue Ocean Wide (NOW) project to conserve and sustainably manage Niue’s Pacific Ocean waters.
“We live in a country and culture that is intricately entwined with our land and ocean. We have not built ourselves too far apart from mother nature, to know when she needs repair.” Pasisi said.
“This final regulation represents the culmination of a four-year collaborative ocean journey with Niue and its people.”
The inclusion of the area around mostly submerged Beveridge Reef is considered to have particular importance because of its marine species biodiversity.
The reef shelters a notable array of grey reef sharks, silky sharks, marlin, moray eels and wrasses. It is also the home of hundreds of invertebrates, algae and corals.
It is normally submerged, with a small part just visible at low tide. It has been the cause of several fishing boats running aground in the past.
The reef lies 209km from Niue and 966km from the Cook Islands.
According to Wikipedia. the 19th century ethnographer Elsdon Best reported that,
“according to oral native tradition at Rarotonga, Beveridge Reef was once a fine isle, with many coconut-palms growing thereon, but that it was swept bare by a fierce hurricane, which carried away both trees and soil, leaving nothing but the bare rock.”
The size of the entire Moana Mahu zone, relative to Niue’s total area, makes it the second largest reserve in the world, after Palau – and Niue is now calling on other Pacific countries to follow suit.
For many years, Niueans have employed management practices to maintain its marine ecosystem in pristine condition and promote long-term sustainability.
“This milestone comes as a beacon of light and hope, on a warm South Pacific current, bearing towards the protection and sustainable management of Niue’s pristine ocean space and resources,” a Tofia Niue statements said.
Beveridge Reef was given it’s European name in 1847 by the British seafarer Captain Lower-Tinger, commander of the brigg Beveridge.