Pacific nation sells stakes in ocean to fund conservation 

tropical beach

The tiny Pacific Islands nation Niue has unveiled an unusual plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change: it is asking sponsors to purchase small areas of its ocean territory to fund conservation efforts.

Niue’s premier, Dalton Tagelagi, revealed details of the Ocean Conservation Commitments (OCC) programme on Tuesday (19 September 2023) in New York. Companies or individuals will be able to pay US$148 to protect a square kilometre of ocean from threats including plastic waste, pollution and illegal fishing for a period of 20 years.

Niue is hoping the plan will raise $18 million. The government has pledged to buy up to 1,700 units, or one for each resident of the island nation. In total, there are 127,000 units available for sponsorship, representing the size of Niue’s marine protected area, the government says.

“As a small island nation, Niue’s vast marine territory holds immense ecological, cultural, and economic value to our people. Its ecosystem services also provide regional and global environmental benefits,” Tagelagi said in a statement.

The funds raised from sponsorship of OCCs will be held and managed by the Niue and Ocean Wide (NOW) Trust, a New Zealand Charitable Trust.

According to Tagelagi, several NGOs and private donors have committed to buying the first OCCs, including cryptocurrency company founder Chris Larsen and his wife, Lyna Lam; Blue Nature Alliance; and Conservation International.

The funding provided by the OCCs will allow Niue to achieve many things in conserving its marine environment, including enhanced community engagement and monitoring, compliance, and enforcement through building control and surveillance capacities.

“Niue will now have the ability to implement monitoring and evaluation activities to assess reef health and fish stocks and strengthen coastal management plans for the island’s 14 villages,” says Tagelagi. “Moreover, we are keen to also fund ocean conservation education programmes and scholarships for Niuean children and community members, as well as promote traditional knowledge and practices in park management.

“Ultimately, this approach to funding marine conservation via OCCs will empower Niue to build a climate-resilient and sustainable blue economy to ensure long-term durability.”

Niue, a small island nation in the South Pacific, is one of the smallest countries in the world. It has a marine territory 1,200 times larger than its land mass. The 321,018-square-kilometre area is home to pristine coral reefs, undersea mountains and diverse marine life.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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