Tukabu Terooko Kiribati and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA)

This entry is written by Tukabu Terooko, a Director of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

The designation of the Phoenix Islands a protected area is part of fulfilling Kiribati obligation under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) being party to the Convention. Initially, the plan was to protect the marine habitats only, but with the abundance of terrestrial life such as coconut crabs, seabirds and others, Kiribati then decided to include the land resources as well. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) encompasses a total area of 408,250 sq. km.

Tukabu Terooko and Greg Stone (Photo: Brian Skerry)

As a small country, Kiribati is proud to contribute to the global environment in closing off 11.34% of its total exclusive economic zone rich in marine biodiversity. PIPA is also an important spawning area for tuna beside the Philippines and its location in the centre of the Pacific Ocean is strategic for stock enhancement of the neighboring waters and afar. It is also an important site for nesting and feeding of seabirds migrating from other hemispheres therefore PIPA in its entirety could be regarded an important protected area in the world. Being remote and isolated, the natural beauty of the islands in PIPA will always remain pristine due to absence of human activities.

Mating green sea turtles seen during a previous Phoenix Islands expedition (Photo: Greg Stone)

There is a need to conduct studies on the deep sea habitats including pelagic species because information is still lacking in these areas. Data to be collected would be very useful in designing of the management and conservation measures for such habitats and species.

A map of Kiribati (click to enlarge)

The passage of the PIPA Regulations 2008 and Trust Conservation Act 2009 is indeed a testimony that Kiribati is committed in protecting the PIPA biodiversity. The decision whether or not to list PIPA a World Heritage Site (Natural) would be made mid 2010.

-Tukabu Terooko

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