Each day during the month of April, the Institute will feature one of the 30 ‘perspectives’ from the One Ocean report. These short articles include a diverse range of views regarding oceans management in New Zealand. Enjoy!
Big ocean nation, surviving with the waves
The Kingdom of Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific, is a ‘big ocean state’ rather than a ‘small island nation’. While its land area is around 700 square kilometres, its maritime exclusive economic zone is a hundred times that, at around 700,000 square kilometres. Survival on the islands is a serious everyday struggle against nature and the oceans, with the rising seas and the surging storms. Yet the ocean, collectively known as the great Moana, is the life-giver that has sustained Pacific cultures for millennia.
The Tongan Constitution states any citizen is free to fish anywhere in the waters of Tonga. This Constitutional clause might potentially be tested by modern Tongan innovations in maritime stewardship. For example, the Tongan Government has put in place eight innovative ‘special management areas’ where the local community has the authority to grant fishing licensing to interested parties. The Tongan Government has also enacted a groundbreaking ‘Seabed Mining Act’ in light of the possibly lucrative deposits sitting at the trenches of the Lau Basin, demarcated by the ridges stretching from the North Island of New Zealand through Tonga and Fiji.
As the sea is a medium of communication, globalisation didn’t only bring waves of prosperity to the shores of Tonga. It also brought waves of transnational crime. Drugs aren’t just hidden on freighters; traffickers have chartered their own vessels. And illegal trawlers have netted life out of the waters, collapsing whole ecosystems. Tonga always looks to defend against these sinister efforts.
While the Kingdom staggers on to pursue more open-market capitalisation of its resources, it is always besieged with the reality that its oceans are its closest help – and greatest obstacle.