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Cook Islands PM declares half of economic zone as marine park

Henry Puna

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna .... declares marine park in support of Oceanscape. Photo: Nigel Moffiet / PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Nigel Moffiet

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has declared almost half of the country’s exclusive economic zone as a marine park to demonstrate his country’s commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape project.

The Pacific Oceanscape, a collaborative initiative between 15 Pacific Island nations within a 38.5 million sq km area, was first proposed by Kiribati President Anote Tong in 2009. It began last year with great support from Pacific leaders.

President Tong said the initiative – which covers issues such as ocean health and security, sustainability, governance, scientific research and investment – is a much needed step to protect the region.

PIF 40 years logo“The time has come to ensure our ocean recovers and survives so that in turn we may do so,” said Tong.

“Our lives are intrinsically linked to the health of our oceans.”

Puna said Pacific people “do not need convincing that the ocean impacts every aspect of our lives”.

“Ocean conservation is not a new concept to us in the Pacific. We have been born with an inbred sense of understanding that we are the guardians of our natural environment.”

‘Sense of duty’
Puna said it was with a sense of duty and identity as Pacific people, and with the intention to preserve the ocean for future generations, that he declared half of his country’s 2.2 million sq km EEZ as a marine park.

“We have conducted initial public consultations with our communities to gauge their opinions on the proposed marine park and I am very pleased that there has been overwhelming support,” he said.

He said the Cook Islands government was in the process of establishing a committee to work through the finer details of the marine park and carry out further public consultations with the community.

The Cook Islands was also grateful for the support of environmental groups like Conservation International he says. He also acknowledged the help of former Kiwi rugby league star Kevin Iro who was instrumental in lobbying for the marine park.

Conservation International chief scientist for oceans Dr Greg Stone said his organisation was committed to the Pacific Oceanscape initiative and environmental work in the Pacific.

In cooperation with the Dutch NGO A-Spark Good Ventures, Conservation International acknowledged their commitment with a $100,000 grant to Pacific Oceanscape.

Private US organisation MacArthur Foundation also offered support through a $500,000 grant towards the initiative.

Countries supporting the initiative include Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Nigel Moffiet is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) student on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course.

Anote Tong

Kiribati President Anote Tong ... sparked off the Pacific Oceanscape project. Photo: Nigel Moffiet /PMC