Marine Atlas: Maximizing Benefits for Vanuatu


Vanuatu’s ocean provides a wealth of services to the people of Vanuatu, and beyond. The ocean and its resources govern daily life, livelihoods, food security, culture, economy and climate.

The South Pacific is a sea of islands (see previ- ous map). While these Pacific Island countries are often referred to as small island states, the map shows that they are in fact large ocean states, with Vanuatu’s marine area covering 680,000 km 2 . Vanuatu’s waters are home to countless environ- mental, social, cultural and economic values and to more than 80 islands, with a total land area of around 12,200 km 2 . This makes Vanuatu a rela- tively large island nation, in terms of land area, compared with some of its neighbours. Each of Vanuatu’s islands have slight variations in vegeta- tion, geography, lifestyle, language and traditions, but they are all closely connected to the sea. The islands now known as Vanuatu have been inhabited since 500 B.C.E. European sailors first visited the archipelago in the seventeenth century and Captain James Cook named it New Hebrides in 1774. French and English Christian missionar- ies, as well as some traders and planters, settled on various parts of New Hebrides, and the islands became an Anglo-French condominium ruled by separate French and British administrations. The archipelago gained independence as Vanuatu in 1980 before being divided into six provinces in 1994, each with their own provincial councils. There were more than 270,400 people living in Vanuatu in 2016. Vanuatu is sometimes divided into northern, central and southern regions. The northern region contains the Torba, Sanma and Penama Prov- inces. Torba Province contains the Torres and Banks Island chains; Sanma Province contains the islands of Espíritu Santo and Malo; and Penama Province contains the islands of Pentecost, Am- bae and Maewo. The northern division is home to some of the most remote and, consequently, pris- tine areas in Vanuatu. Luganville on Espíritu Santo is Vanuatu’s second largest city. It has a population

of more than 16,300 people, is a hub for tourism and shipping, and is serviced by Vanuatu’s second largest airport – Santo-Pekoa International Airport. The central division contains the Shefa and Malampa Provinces. Shefa Province contains the Shepherd Islands and Efaté, which is the largest island in Shefa and the most populous in Vanuatu. Efaté had a population of nearly 66,000 in 2009, with more than 66 per cent of those living in the nation’s capital and economic nucleus, Port Vila, where Vanuatu’s main airport (Bauerfield Inter- national Airport) is located. Malampa Province includes the islands of Malekula, Ambrym and Paama. Malampa is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse provinces in Vanuatu, while Malekula and the nearby Maskelyne Islands are home to some of Vanuatu’s most extensive seagrass meadows and dugong herds. The island of Ambrym is a large, basaltic volcano—one of the most active inhabited volcanoes in the world. The southern division contains a single province, Tafea Province. Its name derives from its five main islands—Tanna, Aneityum, Futuna, Erromango and Aniwa. Tanna is the most populous island with around 29,000 people. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vanuatu, largely due to Mount Yasur, which is one of the most accessi- ble and spectacular active volcanoes in the world. The national government of Vanuatu has three distinct and independent arms—the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The role of ocean governance under this structure is explained further in the chapter “Vanuatu’s commitment to marine conservation”. The Legislature of Vanuatu also involves the National Council of Chiefs (the Malvatumauri). This formal advisory body of elect- ed chiefs was established under the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu. Members are elected by their fellow chiefs from various Island Coun-

Special rights

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone that extends up to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from a country’s baseline. Vanuatu’s EEZ, prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), gives Vanuatu special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources below the surface of the sea. The territorial sea, within 12 nmi from the baseline, is regarded as the sovereign territory of Vanuatu in which it has full authority.

cils of Chiefs and Urban Councils of Chiefs. The Malvatumauri advises government on all matters concerning Ni-Vanuatu culture, Kastom (traditional culture in Melanesia) and language. Local government in Vanuatu is comprised of pro- vincial and municipal councils. Provincial councils are primarily responsible for rural areas. Virtually independent of the provincial councils are three municipal councils, which serve the more dense- ly populated areas of Port Vila, Luganville and Lenakel. Each provincial or municipal council has a central administration. Areas under the jurisdic- tion of provincial councils have local areas headed by an area secretary who reports to the secre- tary-general of their respective provincial council. In all its diversity, from its administrative to geo- graphic and biological features, Vanuatu is indeed a large ocean state.

Vanuatu Parliament, Port Vila



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