The Guardian reports that one state which understood this is Niue, an island located in the Pacific Ocean, which happens to also be one of the largest coral islands in the world.

Niue recently announced that it will protect all of its ocean area located in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which spans for about 317.500 square kilometers or about the entire surface of Vietnam.

The island is home to some of the rarest species on Earth, including the katuali snake, which is found in the inhabitant waters of Niue. Humpback whales also rely on the waters that surround Niue in order to give birth, as they migrate all the way from Antarctica to do that and the island is also home to the largest population of gray reef sharks in the world.

Still, the waters that surround the island for hundreds of miles, alongside the Pacific Ocean as a whole, are under serious threat, mostly coming from illegal fishing, but also from climate change.

This causes extreme natural events and the waters to warm, which in turn is the reason behind coral bleaching.

Dalton Tagelagi, Niue's prime minister, said that "the sand from some of our coves has been washed away due to frequent high and rough seas and our coral is still recovering after Cyclone Heta hit Niue in 2004."

Niue, which is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand, announced in 2020 that it will protect 40% of its waters and two year later, in 2022, the state is committed to 100% protection, following Cook Islands.

The new policy came into effect in the month of April and led to the creation of the Niue Nukutuluea multiple-use marine park.

Among the protected zones is the Beveridge Reef, an uninhabited atoll located about 190 kilometers off the coast of Niue, where fishing is banned and only scientific research is permitted.

Those who are caught illegally fishing in the protected waters risk having their boats and catch seized and they can also be fined up to 322.000 USD.

Brendon Pasisi, Niue’s director for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said that "we can bring much larger penalties to bear, depending on the nature of the offence."

More than 50 countries in the world have pledged to protect 30% of the world waters by 2030, but so far, only 6% of the marine area is protected, while 2% of the total water mass is a "no-take" zone.

Palau is another island which vowed to protect 80% of its waters in 2020, but since the pandemic put a near end to the tourism, officials there might be willing to open 50% of its protected zone to commercial fishing.

The protection of waters is also important for preserving algae, which represent one of the greatest sources of oxygen they are also capable to capture carbon emissions, tackling climate change.

“The ocean is everything to us. It’s what defines us. We have to ensure our reefs and corals remain to provide a healthy ecosystem and continue to create a food source for our people”, Tagelagi concluded.