Kiribati comprises 33 atoll islands, rising barely a meter above sea level, straddling the equator and bisected by the International Date Line. Kiribati’s coastline extends to 1,143 km with a total reef area of 1,967 km2. Up until 2009, a total number of 14 sites were known to be marine protected areas. Twenty-two of the islands are inhabited, with a total population of 103,058, and a population growth rate of just less than 2% per annum. There are three main geographical regions in the country: the Gilbert Islands group, the Phoenix group and the Line Islands. The total land mass of all the islands is 810 km2. Kiritimati Island, in the Line Islands, has the largest land mass of 388 km2, almost half of the total land area of Kiribati. But while the land area is relatively small, the ocean area is huge—it covers 3.5 million km2_larger than India.
Marine and coastal ecosystems provide important benefits for society and contribute to the livelihoods, food security and safety of the people of Kiribati. These benefits (called ecosystem services) are often not visible in national accounts or in business operations; their value is usually only perceived when they are lost. Assigning monetary values to ecosystem services makes the ecosystem service benefits more visible and contributes to improving their wise use and management.
In 2015, the MACBIO Project undertook Marine Ecosystem Service Valuations with all five partner countries including Kiribati.
Some highlights include
• Subsistence food provision is critical to the livelihood and welfare of the people in Kiribati. The gross value of subsistence fishing, estimated from multiple data sources, was between A$ 9 -35 (US$ 8.1 – 31) million/year.
• The gross value of small-scale commercial fishing ranged from A$ 2.8 – 10 (US$ 2.5 – 9) million per year.
• The offshore commercial tuna fishery value-added was estimated at A$ 293 (US$ 264) million; about 20 % of this accrues to Kiribati annually.
• The global benefit of carbon sequestation of Kiribati mangroves was estimated as A$ 337,000 (US$ 304, 000) per year.
Explore some Kiribati maps from the MACBIO MSP Atlas
In Kiribati MACBIO supports marine and coastal biodiversity management on three sites – the learning sites on the North Tarawa Ramsar Site and Arorae, as well as the integration site Kiritimati. These sites are representating different contexts from urban to rural settings.