UNESCO has been informed of a press release issued by the Office of the President of Kiribati on 15 November last, concerning the Government of Kiribati’s decision to lift the closure of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as a no-take zone and to introduce a Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for the sustainable use of marine resources within the World Heritage property. A no-take zone is a marine protected area set aside by the government where fishing, mining, or other extractive activities are banned.

In 2015, the World Heritage Committee commended Kiribati for its landmark decision of 2014 to fully close the entire area of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to commercial fishing.

Therefore, UNESCO is deeply concerned by the announcement that the 2014 decision would be reversed, which may impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage property. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Committee will bring this matter to the attention of the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee (Kazan, Russian Federation, 19-30 June 2022).

In the meantime, UNESCO is engaging in dialogue with the authorities of Kiribati and the International Union for Conservation of Nature about the possible impacts of this decision on the OUV of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. The Organization stands ready to provide advice in order to ensure the best possible preservation of the World Heritage property.