Tokelau Marine Conservation Area – Target site

Name of the management authority

Environment Unit, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Tokelau


Tokelau is a group of three atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand at 9 00 S, 172 00 W. Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo collectively comprise 12 km2 of land and 1887 km2 of lagoon. Tokelau is currently a territory of New Zealand.

Demographics statistics

Current population 1458. Estimated carrying capacity 1250. (Atafu 350, Nukunonu 500, Fakaofo 400 – Humphries & collins 1991).

Objective/Purpose of the site

To establish and manage a marine conservation area. (There are currently no conservation areas of nay type in Tokelau).

Ecological features and assets

All three Tokelau atolls are closed, with high coral reefs encircling moderately sized lagoons and with no deep water passages to the open sea. The marine ecology is not well described despite the fact that marine resources are Tokelau’s major asset. Site-specific marine ecological data is almost completely lacking except for sporadic surveys on economically valuable species such as giant clams and fin fish. Three species of turtle are known to occur. Despite the fact that no formal surveys have been carried out, Tokelau is presumed to have a rich and varied marine fauna.

Socioeconomic features and assets

Tokelau’s small size (three villages), isolation, and lack of resources greatly restrain economic development and confine agriculture to the minimal levels, hence the almost totasl reliance on marine resources. The people must rely on aid from New Zealand to maintain public services, annual aid being substantially greater than GDP. Fishing is arguably the most important activity in Tokelau but only the excess over family requirements is sold.

Major threats

Overharvesting of fish, giant clams and turtles; destructive fishing methods; anchor damage; trampling of the reef by fishermen and net damage.

Background legislation and policy support

Responsibility for environmental issues rests with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment. This project will be managed by this department.

Management structure

the Taupulega (council of chiefs) supported by the Environment Unit of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment and nominated country counterparts.


Establish a community-based management framework under the Taupelega;Undertake baseline marine resource assessments;Develop resource management plan for the Atoll(s);Explore alternative micro-enterprise opportunities;Education and Awareness campaign to promote sustainble resource use;Declare a conservation area, set regulations and by-laws regulating resource harvest and income generating activities

Stakeholder involvement and participation

The Taupulega.

Link to a demonstration site : Jaluit Atoll, already more advanced in its conservations initiatives, will be the “demonstration” partner for this site.

Major needs

  • Information on marine resources and socio-economic importance/level of dependence on marine resources.
  • Resource management plan.
  • Institutional and individual strengthening.
  • Reduced and/or more efficient harvesting of marine resources.
  • Alternative livelihoods.