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IUCN sup­ports Cook Islands to cre­ate the world’s largest marine park

pub­lished 16 Novem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 16 Novem­ber 2012
Cook-Islands-mapThe Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature (IUCN), as part of its Global Marine and Polar Pro­gramme, has recently signed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with the Gov­ern­ment of the Cook Islands to sup­port the estab­lish­ment of the world’s largest marine pro­tected area — the Cook Islands Marine Park.

The park will con­tribute to con­serv­ing the region’s marine bio­di­ver­sity, boost­ing local eco­nomic growth and pre­serv­ing the health of the ocean glob­ally. The agree­ment fol­lows the Cook Islands’ announce­ment of the cre­ation of the park in August 2012.

This is a land­mark deci­sion and should be treated as an exam­ple to fol­low by coun­tries around the world.With just over 2% of the world’s ocean cur­rently pro­tected, this is a major step towards safe­guard­ing our planet’s marine realm and the price­less ser­vices it pro­vides us, includ­ing oxy­gen, food and water
Carl Gustaf Lundin, Direc­tor of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Pro­gramme »

Cook islands imageThe Cook Islands Marine Park cov­ers 1.065 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres (411,000 square miles) — an area more than twice the size of Papua New Guinea. It is the largest marine park ever declared by a sin­gle coun­try for inte­grated ocean con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment. The area includes remote atolls, high vol­canic islands sur­rounded by fring­ing reefs and unspoilt fauna asso­ci­ated with under­wa­ter moun­tains. It also hosts rich Pacific marine bio­di­ver­sity, includ­ing rare seabirds, blue whales, manta rays and sev­eral shark species, a num­ber of which are listed as threat­ened on the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™.

Pro­tect­ing the Pacific, one of the last pris­tine marine ecosys­tems, is the Cooks’ major con­tri­bu­tion to the well-​being of not only our peo­ples but of human­ity in gen­eral,” saysHenry Puna, Prime Min­is­ter of the Cook Islands. “The marine park will pro­vide the nec­es­sary frame­work to pro­mote sus­tain­able devel­op­ment by bal­anc­ing eco­nomic growth inter­ests such as tourism, fish­ing and deep sea min­ing with con­serv­ing bio­di­ver­sity in the ocean.”

Sim­i­larly to the Phoenix Islands Pro­tected Area in Kiri­bati, the Cook Islands Marine Park will con­tain a vari­ety of zones with dif­fer­ent lev­els of pro­tec­tion, includ­ing areas where all fish­ing will be banned, and buffer areas where tourism and care­fully mon­i­tored fish­ing will be allowed.

The cre­ation of the park will involve iden­ti­fy­ing where and how the area is being used, what nat­ural resources and habi­tats it hosts and how they can be used sus­tain­ably. The IUCN World Com­mis­sion on Pro­tected Areas will also pro­vide assis­tance to link the rights that local peo­ple have tra­di­tion­ally enjoyed in rela­tion to the park’s nat­ural resources with exist­ing leg­is­la­tion, inte­grat­ing the tra­di­tional meth­ods of man­ag­ing the area into inno­v­a­tive large-​scale marine con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives. This should fos­ter com­mu­nity own­er­ship of marine con­ser­va­tion areas and sup­port sci­en­tific and pol­icy research by national and regional insti­tu­tions, accord­ing to IUCN.

Thanks to ini­tia­tives like this one, small island nations such as the Cook Islands and Kiri­bati are begin­ning to con­fi­dently act as ‘large ocean devel­op­ing states’, lead­ing the way to con­serve large areas of national Exclu­sive Eco­nomic Zones in the Pacific Ocean — places where the state has spe­cial rights over the explo­ration and use of marine resources,” says Jan Stef­fen, IUCN Ocea­nia Regional Marine Pro­gramme Coor­di­na­tor.

IUCN’s involve­ment in the estab­lish­ment of the Cook Islands Marine Park will be finan­cially sup­ported by Global Blue — a trav­eller service-​related com­pany head­quar­tered in Switzer­land. Other con­ser­va­tion part­ners that signed the mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with the Gov­ern­ment of the Cook Islands include the South Pacific Regional Envi­ron­ment Pro­gram (SPREP), the United Nations Envi­ron­ment Pro­gramme (UNEP), Con­ser­va­tion Inter­na­tional and the Marine Sci­ence Insti­tute of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Bar­bara.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at IUCN. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: IUCN News, 15.11.2012)
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