Niue and Chile: Protectors of the Pacific

by cicada on October 6, 2017 - 7:14pm

Recently, Chile and the small island nation of Niue (containing only about 1600 people) have set aside some of their waters for conservation purposes. Niue devoted 40% of its economic zone while Chile created two new parks. Collectively, the two nations’ efforts have set aside an ocean area twice the size of Germany – specifically 290,000 square feet – for conservation purposes. The areas, which are listed as marine protected areas, strictly prohibit extractive activities such as fishing (Greshko, 2017).

Off Chile’s coast, its fisheries are often pushed to the brink, leading to the Chilean government to make the choice that would ensure the fisheries’ continuity. According to Enric Sala of National Geographic, Chile is a “fishing country” where fisheries are either fully- or overexploited (Greshko, 2017). Without government intervention, they would surely meet their demise from overexploitation.

Niue’s decision arose from the fact that the marine ecosystems are believed to be very vulnerable – this was done with good reason since global warming has been damaging coral reefs worldwide, although in Niue, the reefs took massive damage following the cyclone Heta in 2005 (Greshko, 2017). In addition to wanting to protect their coral reefs, Niue’s decision was also influenced by the overfishing in the area, especially for wild tuna (Greshko, 2017).

            The Chilean reserves aren’t limited to ocean space, they include some small islands that also serve as nesting grounds for rockhopper penguins, black-browed albatrosses, and a majority of the world’s blue petrels. The Niue reserve includes the whole island, its seamounts, and its reefs (Greshko, 2017).

I agree with both the article’s author and the governments he wrote about. Niue should be receiving great praise for such a feat. For such a small nation that even lacks formal United Nations representation, they have contributed greatly to worldwide conservation efforts. Although Chile is not a tiny country like Niue, their choice is still an impressive feat given Chile is said to be dependent on fishing for their economy, they still found the need to protect their waters and fish stocks from otherwise inevitable overexploitation.

Reading this article has led me to think more about the content of the course lectures. The first concept I would think to apply is the Staples Theory. As stated in the article, Chile is said to be a “fishing country”, yet, the government chose to restrict a large area of ocean where great amounts of fishing have taken place. I believe this is Chile’s attempt to escape a staples trap, where they become too dependent on fish, and in turn catch more and more until there is nothing left. This can force people to adapt, and rely on other resources for income. This can be related to Canada’s staples trap, where an overdependence on oil exports results in cases where whenever oil prices fall, the national economy takes a hit. In both the cases of Chile and Canada, not putting all eggs in one basket seems to be a wise choice, especially when the environment is something that needs to be considered.


Greshko, M. (2017, October 4). New Marine Parks Protect 290,000 Square Miles of Ocean. Retrieved from


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