New Information Centre Engages Cook Islanders on 1.1M Square Kilometer Marine Protected Area

8/24/2014

The Cook Islands’ Marae Moana Information Hub opened today to share information and gather feedback on the design and zonation of the Marae Moana marine park, one of the world’s largest planned marine protected areas.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands/Arlington, Va. USA – Today an information center was opened in Rarotonga to engage with the general public on the design of the 1.1 million square kilometer Marae Moana, the Cook Islands’ multiple use marine park and one of the largest planned marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world. The center aims to raise awareness among Cook Islanders and tourists of the recently declared Marae Moana and the natural resources it contains, and gather feedback on its design. 

Kevin Iro, co-chair of the Marine Park Steering Committee said, “The center was designed to empower all Cook Islanders with knowledge of their territorial rights to the ocean and their obligations to the environment. It gives everyone equal opportunity to come in and contribute their thoughts and ideas to the marine park design and the development of its zoning and management plan.”

Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of Conservation International (CI) attended the opening. He said, “In 2001 the Cook Islands broke new ground when they made their entire Exclusive Economic Zone a whale sanctuary.  In 2011, they announced their commitment to create the 1.1M km2 marine park, which at the time was the largest protected area in the world.  Today they take the lead again by opening their consultation process to all levels of society, including youth – an important audience–as they will inherit what we do with the ocean today. This is a major undertaking and we are proud to support the great vision of the Cook Islands.” 

Invited by Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, CI has provided counsel and support to the marine park’s development. Currently in the design phase, the marine park’s steering committee is experimenting with innovative outreach efforts, such as this information center, to value and foster public participation.

CI has acted as a trusted advisor to the Marae Moana, supporting its design and providing expertise and resources including those used to establish and operate the information center. CI is also the founding NGO partner in the Pacific Oceanscape, an initiative by Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, to foster ocean stewardship and integrated management.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said, “I attribute this strong support to the close connection all Cook Islanders have with the waters, after all over 99% of our territory is ocean. Already this consultative approach has given us great insight into how our people feel our ocean resources should be managed, I look forward to hearing more from the information gathered at the centre.”

Iro added, “I’m excited to see the Marae Moana marine park move forward, and optimistic about its future — not only for the balance it will strike between sustainable development and use and conservation, but also for the precedent it sets for other countries. I hope the idea spreads through the Pacific and leads to more marine parks that protect and conserve the ocean’s natural assets now and into the future.”

 “The Marae Moana will protect the country’s valuable coastal and marine resources for our people as we depend upon these for our food and livelihood. All nations must show respect for the ocean because it sustains all life on this earth,” said Prime Minister Puna, underscoring the importance of integrated ocean management and conservation.  

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Watch: ‘Mapping the Blue’ for the story of the CIMP.

For more information, contact: Emmeline Johansen, Regional Communications Manager, Asia Pacific Field Division, Conservation International | Mobile +64 4 277 793 401 Email ejohansen.conservation@gmail.com
    
About Conservation International
Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity for the well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area and employs more than 800 staff in 30 countries on six continents, and has nearly 1,000 partners around the world. For more information, please visit our website at: www.conservation.org/ or visit us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

About the Cook Islands Marine Park
The Government of the Cook Islands created the Cook Islands Marine Park, a 1.1 million square kilometre marine park, comprised of half of the nation’s territory and, at the time of its announcement, was the largest marine park in the world. The CIMP will be zoned for multiple uses including tourism, fishing, and potentially deep-sea mineral extraction, but only if these activities can be carried out sustainably: the precautionary principle will determine what activities can take place. The marine park will provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests with conserving core biodiversity in the ocean.

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