Kermadec Campaign Partners WWF-New Zealand, Forest & Bird and The Pew Charitable Trusts welcomed the Niue government’s announcement today that it plans to create a large marine protected area covering 40% of its exclusive economic zone, and called on New Zealand to do more to protect the ocean.
The newly announced marine protected area will protect the ocean around Niue and nearby Beveridge Reef, an uninhabited atoll that is home to the world’s highest density of grey reef sharks. Once established, the new marine protected area will be the 28th largest in the world. Niue will be one of three nations, along with Palau and Chile, that are fully protecting well over 30% of their ocean territories, which is what scientists recommend to keep oceans healthy and resilient to climate change.
Livia Esterhazy, WWF-New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, said: “Congratulations Niue! This is a huge step forward for marine conservation in the Pacific. The ocean around Niue is a known breeding ground for humpback whales – the same whales that pass through New Zealand’s Kermadec region each spring.
“There’s a huge opportunity for New Zealand to keep this momentum going by establishing the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary now. We Kiwis love our oceans, and we want to protect them. A Colmar Brunton poll earlier this year showed that 93% of New Zealanders want the Sanctuary established. The two mana whenua iwi, Ngāti Kuri and Te Aupōuri support the Sanctuary. Let’s make it happen!”
University of Auckland scientist Dr Rochelle Constantine has travelled to the Kermadec region several times, studying the humpback whales that gather there each spring on their way from the tropics, where they breed, down to their sub-Antarctic summer feeding grounds. Supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, her research has confirmed that humpback whales from Niue travel to the Kermadecs, along with others from across the Pacific and beyond. The Kermadec Campaign partners, Forest & Bird, the Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF-New Zealand have been advocating creating an ocean sanctuary in the region to fully protect its internationally important wildlife.
Kevin Hague, Forest & Bird Chief Executive Officer said: “This is an inspiring move by Niue, and makes it even more embarrassing that New Zealand has only fully protected less than 1% of its ocean. It is past time for New Zealand to step up to the plate on marine protection. Niue has promised to protect 40% of its ocean territory. By keeping the promise our government made two years ago to establish the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, New Zealand could protect 15% of our ocean territory in one go.
“We don’t know which parties will make up our new government once coalition negotiations are completed, but we do know that New Zealanders all over the country will be watching for the new government to keep the Kermadec promise.”