Cook Islands Marine Park
Grant Recipient: Oceans 5
Project Support: Cook Islands Marine Park
About the Project
Through Oceans 5, the Waitt Foundation is supporting the Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) and traditional Maori leaders in their work to establish a large marine reserve in the Cook Islands. The three-year project seeks to establish a fully protected marine reserve greater than 200,000 square kilometers. Project activities in the first year include consultations with residents of Outer Islands, developing an appropriate legal and administrative framework, defining priority conservation objectives and implementing a communications strategy.
In August 2012, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna announced the establishment of a 1,065,000 square kilometer multiple use marine park that will “provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests such as tourism, fishing and deep-sea mining, with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets, in the ocean, reefs and islands.” Previously, he had created a marine park steering committee of traditional leaders, civil society and key government agencies to help design and build support for the park.
Exactly how much of the 1.1 million square kilometers will be no-take and where it will be located has not yet been determined. However, there is widespread support among steering committee members and most government officials to fully protect at least 20% of the park. It is likely that significant portions of this area will be located around islands and seamounts. Steering committee members also widely support co-management of marine resources among traditional leaders, civil society and government.
The Prime Minister’s proposal presently only includes the southern portion of the Cook Islands. However, this project also will support outreach and consultation with communities in the Northern Islands. Many Northern residents have expressed support for including their region in the planning process for the park. The Northern Cook Islands includes significantly more commercial fishing, as well as potential seabed mineral mining interests. As such, it may be more difficult to secure large fully protected areas in that region.