Pacific island nation launches marine funding initiative

The Pacific Island nation of Niue. Image: Molly Brown, iStock

Niue, a small island nation in the South Pacific, has launched a first-of-its-kind sustainable funding initiative to ensure the long-term conservation of its marine environment.

The initiative, called Ocean Conservation Commitments (OCCs), will support Niue’s ambitious conservation goals and create a sustainable blue economy. It will also help protect intact marine ecosystems for the benefit of its people and the global community.

Niue has a marine territory 1,200 times larger than its land mass. The 321,018km2 area is home to pristine coral reefs, undersea mountains, and diverse marine life which has been largely unexploited and serves as a sanctuary for many shark, whale, dolphin, ray, and turtle species.

OCCs are a philanthropic system designed to help fund the long-term protection of Niue through sponsorship opportunities. Held and managed by the New Zealand Niue and Ocean Wide Trust (NOW), donors can sponsor one or more OCCs, each representing the costs to protect and manage a square kilometre of Niue’s marine territory, for up to 20 years.

Sponsorship of one OCC is US$148, with 127,000 OCCs available. As part of the new initiative, the Government of Niue will sponsor nearly 1,700 OCCs representing one for every resident of Niue.

Niue Premier Hon. Dalton Tagelagi said, “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.

"The ocean is everything to us. We are also proud that several NGOs and private donors have already committed to sponsoring the first OCCs. They include the Blue Nature Alliance and Conservation International.”

The funding provided by the OCCs will allow Niue to achieve and implement marine conservation activities such as monitoring and evaluation activities to assess reef health and fish stocks and strengthen coastal management plans for the island’s 14 villages. The fund will also provide ocean conservation education programmes and scholarships for Niuean children and community members, as well as promote traditional knowledge and practices in park management.

"This approach to funding marine conservation will empower Niue to build a climate-resilient and sustainable blue economy and establish ourselves as a small but important global leader in ocean conversation."

Dalton Tagelagi, Government of Niue

Premier Tagelagi said, "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 and establish ourselves as a small but important global leader in ocean conversation.

"With a NOW Trust endowment target of US$18 million, OCC sponsorship will directly contribute to the incremental cost of conserving and managing the marine territory as well as the value of ecosystem services."

Chief executive of Conservation International, Dr M Sanjayan said, “Even the smallest nations can make global waves. Congratulations to Niue, whose leadership in conservation is proving that conservation ambitions are entirely attainable when we unite governments and private funders around innovative funding.

"We hope other island governments seize this historic momentum to protect the pristine beauty, and life-sustaining bounties, of our oceans.”

Individuals, corporations, foundations, multi-lateral and bilateral development partners are invited to sponsor OCCs to directly contribute to the conservation of Niue’s marine territory. OCC sponsorship will be made available through the NOW Trust website or by direct enquiry with NOW Trust.