The tiny Pacific island state of Niue has announced that it will protect 100% of the ocean in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), spanning 317,500 sq km (122,000 sq miles), roughly the area of Vietnam. The water surrounding one of the world’s largest raised coral atolls is the only place where the katuali is found – a sea snake that lives in the island’s honeycomb of underwater caves. Humpback whales migrate to Niue from Antarctica to give birth; spinner dolphins swim near the coast, and Niue boasts the world’s highest density of grey reef sharks.
Yet the reefs of this isolated island in the Pacific Ocean, 370 miles (600km) from its nearest neighbor Tonga, are threatened by illegal fishing and the climate crisis. To combat this, those caught breaching Niue’s marine park laws and fishing illegally can have their vessels seized and receive a fine of up to NZ$500,000 (£255,000).
If the government believes the crime should face a harsher penalty, it can prosecute using the 2013 Maritime Zones Act or the 1996 Territorial Sea and Economic Zones Act. “We can bring much larger penalties to bear, depending on the nature of the offense,” said Brendon Pasisi, Niue’s director for agriculture, forestry and fisheries.