Niue, the world’s largest atoll becomes part of the Pristine Seas project
Niueans on the “Rock” are excited about being part of the global Pristine Seas initiative which aims to help “protect some of the last wild places in the world’s ocean”.
Niue’s Minister for Natural Resources, Hon Billy Talagi, is widely acknowledged as the driving force behind the project’s Niue arm.
“It’s very exciting for all of us in Niue and a big thank you to Minister Billy Talagi…and many other folks who have helped to make this happen,” according to Miss Coral Pasisi, a resident on Niue.
For the project team, “These pristine places are unknown by all but long-distance fishing fleets, which have started to encroach on them. It is essential that we let the world know that these places exist, that they are threatened, and that they deserve to be protected,” according to one of their first blog posts.
They also recognised that one of the key reasons for Niue’s waters remaining in their pristine condition is the traditional ocean management practice and guardianship of Niue’s people.
“The community have been caring for their ocean through generations—these traditions and careful management practices mean that these waters are in excellent condition.
“In addition to understanding their own waters so well, Niue’s people are a key partner in world ocean management leadership issues helping to underscore their well-informed global ocean perspective.
“As Niue looks to the future of its seas, more information is needed from hard-to-reach areas and that’s where we fit in. We are working alongside the Niue government to complete comprehensive marine science surveys around all of Niue (with a particular focus on the tricky windward side). Then we will head 120 nautical miles to the southeast to the tiny Beveridge Reef.”
Niue resident and artist Mark Cross commented, “Looking forward to future posts from the Niue expedition. And especially Beveridge, a remarkable place and yes in my experience, sharks are pretty prevalent.”
The team, which include four Niuean scientists, will use a variety of observation and sampling techniques including drop cameras, SCUBA surveys, and micropaleo benthic sampling, to analyze the conservation potential of Beveridge Reef and Niue’s near shore waters.
“We are fortunate to have four excellent Niuean scientists on the team and as we depart … we feel that we are taking the wonderful ocean spirit of all Niuean people with us.”
Niue is the world’s largest raised coral atoll, located in the South Pacific between Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.
Otherwise known as “The Rock”, Niue’s unique island terrain offers bountiful opportunities to observe both marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
A wide variety of geological features dot the island’s coast, from steep limestone cliffs, to caves and sharp exposed coral formations.
Lying 120 nautical miles from the main island is Beveridge Reef, a submerged atoll that has not yet undergone a thorough scientific survey but enjoys a significant array of marine life that may be in a nearly pristine condition owing to its isolation and remoteness.
According to the project team, “It’s a legendary place: It’s only visible at low tide, hard to find, rough seas outside the reef—flat calm inside (we hope!), very rarely visited, hardly ever dived, stories of divers being chased out of the water by sharks, and most importantly, the certain promise of new discoveries.”
The ocean – covering over 70 percent of the planet – sustains all life on Earth. It supplies more than half the oxygen we breathe and regulates the Earth’s climate.
Its fisheries provide employment for 180 million people and food for billions worldwide, and it offers opportunities for recreation, education, and tourism.
National Geographic and Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala launched the Pristine Seas project to find, survey, and help protect the last wild places in the ocean.
It claims to have helped protect more than 3-million square kilometers of ocean territory.