Kiribati Strategic Advice – Phoenix Islands Protected Area


In 2017 Reef Ecologic supported the Government of Kiribati in the research and preparation of multiple documents to support the improved management and use of locations in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). These included a management plan for improved usage of Kanton Island, and a monitoring and evaluation plan for the entire PIPA.

The Republic of Kiribati comprises 33 coral atolls and isles stretching along the equator in the central Pacific Ocean, many of which are uninhabited, remote and pristine. In the middle of this watery expanse Kiribati declared the 425,300km2 Phoenix Islands a Protected Area (PIPA) in 2006. PIPA is a marine protected area and a home for abundant sharks, turtles, seabirds, fish and some of the most pristine coral reefs on earth.

The purpose of the June 2017 expedition by Reef Ecologic, Arup and PIPA was to develop a plan to sustainably manage the resources to preserve the natural, biological, heritage and socio-economic values of this remote location. The sustainability plan will enable the development of eco-tourism and research opportunities in this diverse and unique location.

Additionally, Reef Ecologic were commissioned to assist in the preparation of a monitoring and evaluation plan for the PIPA. This Monitoring and Evaluation Plan guides collection of information required to support management of PIPA in accord with the objectives of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area Management Plan 2015-2020. These objectives encompass the range of values and issues that characterise the Protected Area and underpin listing on the UNESCO World Heritage register.


Smith, Adam K., Nathan Cook, Al Songcuan, Greta Sartori, Daniel Cassidy, Matthew Deane, Tukabu Teroroko, and Betarim Rimon. 2020. Ecological and Infrastructure Assessment of Kanton (Abariringa) Island, Phoenix Island Protected Area, Kiribati. Atoll Research Bulletin, 628. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Scholarly Press. 

Kanton Resource Use Sustainability Plan (KRUSP)

PIPA worked collaboratively with Reef Ecologic and Arup to build on existing knowledge and conduct expert assessments and consultation at Kanton Island in June 2017. Kanton Island has spectacular marine, historical and cultural assets and values. Our ecosystem assessments reported over 130 species of fish, numerous sharks, turtles, very high (over 90%) coral cover, native vegetation and large numbers of roosting and nesting seabirds.

Kanton Island has numerous infrastructure assets including an airfield, road and port. Many of these assets were built for WWII , are degraded, and in some cases severely damaged and not operational. We assessed the condition of airfield, road and port infrastructure and provide options, costs and suggested timing for remediation.

A series of stakeholder meetings in Kanton and Tarawa between June and August 2017 discussed the preliminary results of the assessments and key elements of a draft sustainability plan for Kanton Island. Over 200 people from Government, industry and science have been involved in sharing knowledge and providing advice on future management tools for the Kanton Resource Use Sustainability Plan (KRUSP).

The key elements of the KRUSP are that it covers a 12Nm radius around Kanton Island. Over 50% of the island and lagoon are protected in a Conservation Zone. Designated areas have been identified for Subsistence fishing, Tourism development, Ports and Transport. There are currently 30-40 people living on Kanton Island and very limited tourism. The KRUSP plans to encourage high value, sustainable tourism on Kanton Island with a maximum limit of 100 people per day.

PIPA Monitoring and Evaluation Plan

This Monitoring and Evaluation Plan presents an integrated approach to collecting information necessary for effective management and reporting against the nine objectives outlined in the PIPA Management Plan (see boxed text). The Monitoring and Evaluation Plan aims to support adaptive management of PIPA by maximising the availability of information on key indicators. While the spatial coverage and temporal frequency of monitoring is necessarily limited due to the logistical challenges of collecting data about such a large and remote protected area, the Plan provides mechanisms for an early-warning system that can detect changes that might warrant a management response, especially for values and issues pertinent to Kanton Island.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Plan is designed to be iterative and will evolve as new methods, protocols, technologies or logistical considerations become prevalent. New partners and expanded spatial coverage are expected as capacity and resources increase. Accordingly, this Plan should be considered a ’living document’ with updates and revisions occurring as new technologies become available, resources and partnerships evolve, and the information needs of management change.

Dr Adam Smith presenting to stakeholders in Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati before departure for Kanton

Stunning white sand beaches of Kanton

The Reef Ecologic and PIPA team meeting with the Australian High Commission in Tarawa.

The small community of Kanton Island gather for a farewell ceremony of the reef team and aircrew

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