Story | 08 Mar, 2024

Oma Tafua celebrates 20 years of whale research and conservation success

Oma Tafua (meaning “to treasure whales”) Kiwa Initiative project, a non-profit organisation in Niue, has achieved remarkable results in whale research. Between 2022 and 2023, the organisation documented over 70 individual humpback whales in Niue's catalogue, setting a record for the NGO and its volunteer team.

Furthermore, Oma Tafua secured footage of a Niue whale in Panama, Central America, marking the longest recorded distance to date for a Niue whale. The organisation is dedicated to whale conservation and has recently secured funding for terrestrial Nature-based Solutions (NbS) projects.

“Niue is a large ocean island (1 person = +229kms of ocean) with a vast marine ecosystem”, said Fiafia Rex, the founder and president of Oma Tafua. “Niue is considering assessing the value of its whale watching industry, including its carbon sequestration potential.”

She said this data could support efforts to enhance the protection of marine mammals, recognising their importance as a precious resource.

“Marine mammals hold immense economic value for Niue's tourism sector. Whale-watching alone generates considerable income for the country, attracting tourists worldwide.”, said Ms Rex.

Recognising the need for action, Ms. Rex emphasised the need to evaluate the worth of the whale-watching industry, considering its carbon value and capacity to mitigate climate change. Improved data collection and analysis would strengthen arguments for greater protection of marine mammals, a priceless resource for the communities in Niue.

Additionally, Oma Tafua celebrated its 20th anniversary on 4 - 5 January 2024, remembering the devastation caused by Cyclone Heta. During this period, the organisation operated an exhibition booth featuring images of the 2004 disaster alongside distributed plants, cyclone tracking maps, and charcoal sticks made from removed invasive trees.

“The booth operated both days, offering a space for answering questions and sharing survivor experiences. We are grateful for the support of Delta Sipeni and our two volunteers,” Ms. Rex stated.

The Oma Tafua Kiwa Initiative project team acknowledged the support provided by the Alofi South Women's Group and Explore Niue Tours & Travel throughout the Cultural Journey tour conducted on 21 December 2023. Guided by the wisdom of the elders, this tour helped identify native trees suitable for coastal planting, specifically in Alofi, the village most impacted by cyclones.

Oma Tafua Kiwa Initiative leads the “Advancing NbS with Youth and Vulnerable Groups in Niue” project in partnership with the Niue Island (Umbrella) Association of Non-Government Organisations (NIUANGO). From 2023 to 2025, this organisation receives funding from the Kiwa Initiative to advance Nature-based Solutions in Niue, focusing on empowering youth and vulnerable populations. Collaboratively, Oma Tafua and NIUANGO coordinate the project to boost community engagement and build climate resilience in Niue.

The Kiwa initiative is funded by the European Union (EU), Agence Française de Développement, Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and (DFAT) and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). The Initiative has established partnerships with the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Oceania Regional Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Kiwa Initiative logo and donors and partners