Two and a half thousand kilometres off the coast of New Zealand, one tiny island nation has had a very bright idea indeed. The Pacific island of Niue, which is home to just 1,600 people, has announced that it wants to protect all of the ocean in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
And if that sounds ambitious, that’s because it certainly is. Niue’s EEZ covers a whopping 317,500 square kilometres, ranging from huge reefs and world-renowned underwater caves to vast stretches of open ocean. The area is currently under threat from both illegal fishing and climate change, which is causing coral bleaching and a higher frequency of adverse weather events like cyclones.
The island’s plans for protecting its seas include the creation of a marine park called Niue Nukutuluea. The area will have different zones dedicated to things like research, water sports and commercial fishing, and will be patrolled with the help of satellite surveillance. Anyone caught breaching the laws could be fined NZ$500,000 (£260,000, $330,000), though that could rise for more serious crimes.
Niue isn’t the first island in the region to commit to protecting 100 percent of its oceans. Fellow Pacific nation the Cook Islands implemented a similar policy in 2017, announcing its plan to safeguard the entirety of its nearly-two-million-square-kilometre EEZ.
In any case, in the face of climate crisis and the unfettered depletion of the world’s natural resources, Niue’s new policy could offer a bold blueprint for other island nations in the years to come. The policy came into effect in April, so if you fancy visiting (with permission, of course) some of Niue’s new conservation areas, now’s the time to do it.