Niue Cabinet passed the Niue Moana Mahu Marine Protected Area Regulations 2020 in April, formalizing the protection of 40% of Niue’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – 127,000 square kilometers.
Niue decided to protect these waters amid concerns that its ecosystem and way of life are at high risk. Coral reefs throughout the central and western Pacific are degrading, as a changing climate brings warmer and more acidic waters. Overfishing has also pummeled open-ocean fish stocks, including wild tuna. The island's reefs are also still recovering from Heta, a Category-5 cyclone that dealt massive damage to Niue in 2004.
The Large Scale Marine Protected Area (LSMPA) includes a Special Management Area (SMA) around and including Beveridge Reef named the “Beveridge Reef Nukutulueatama Special Management Area” The regulations were made possible through the provisions under the Maritime Zone Legislations which was amended in August last year with the provisions to enable the Cabinet to create these regulations.
This development milestone represents the culmination of a 4-year collaboration between the main donors and partners of the Niue Government – Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), and Tofia Niue, and the primary donor and partners, and Oceans 5 and National Geographic Pristine Seas, together with the Niue Ridge to Reef (Niue R2R) Project with funding from UNDP and the Global Environment Fund UNDP/GEF.
The Niue R2R Project focuses on enhancing Niue’s capacity to effectively create and manage protected areas for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, and safeguarding of ecosystem services. Ministry of Natural Resources Director General Josie Tamate said: “One of the Niue R2R project’s target outputs was for Beveridge Reef to become a marine protected area.”
“The collaboration with the NOW project and its networks have expanded the marine protected area formally known as the Niue Moana Mahu to cover 40% of Niue’s EEZ,” she explained. “The Moana Mahu is a historic achievement for Niue and a significant contribution towards Climate Change and Marine Biodiversity, and we acknowledge the support provided by all our partners,” she concluded.
The creation of a Marine Protected Area at Beveridge Reef represents an integrated and holistic approach promoted by the project recognizing the link between the reef and mainland as a source of recruitment for clams and other marine species in Niue’s coral reefs. The most comprehensive resource assessment survey of Niue and Beveridge Reef was undertaken in September 2016 and local communities were treated with an opportunity to observe this through its full video documentation Expedition Niue produced by National Geographic Pristine Seas (NGPS).
The overwhelming support for enhanced protection and management of Niue’s marine environment and Beveridge Reef by the viewing public provided the impetus to pursue a LSMPA, including Beveridge Reef. The research for connectivity to Niue and protection of Beveridge Reef was identified as a key area for the Niue R2R project supporting the new SMA status assigned to the Reef.
The passing of the regulations is the culmination of several years of work which began with an approach to Oceans 5 in 2015 through theMNR and DAFF to support Niue in the development of a sustainable and integrated approach to ocean conservation and management. This was followed by the establishment of local NGO Tofia Niue and the Public-Private partnership between the Government of Niue and Tofia Niue, represented by the Niue Ocean Wide (NOW) Project and funded by Oceans 5 in mid-2016.
Based on a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, the Niue Government made the announcement to the world to commit 40% EEZ under MPA in 2017. In 2018, a legal analysis was undertaken along with the development of an EEZ wide Marine Spatial Management Plan and Compliance Strategy for Niue. In September 2019, parliament passed an amendment to the Maritime Zones Act creating the enabling legal basis for the establishment of the LSMPAs.
Niue now exceeds relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) targets supporting the 2050 Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent and Pacific Oceanscape Framework.