Category: Marine Park News

Marae Moana Becomes Reality

13 July 2017 The Cook Islands is now the largest multi-use marine park in the world. Marae Moana – spanning a total ocean area of nearly two million square kilometres – became a reality on Tuesday. A massive feat for a country with only a tiny 237 square kilometre land area. The entire Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone – an area similar in size to the landmass of Mexico – is now officially designated as the Cook Islands Marine Park. Possibly the most significant piece of legislation since Independence, the monumental bill was passed in parliament with resounding bipartisan support. What started out as one man’s vision has been passed into ocean saving legislation. After five years in the making, local environmentalist Kevin Iro’s concept to protect the ocean surrounding the Cook Islands has finally come to fruition. Iro, co-chair of the Cook Islands Marine Park Steering Committee, said the bill signifies “the sacredness of how Cook Islanders view our ocean space. It links us to our ancestors – it’s more than just the ocean”. Iro said that he is very excited, especially with the bipartisan support Marae Moana received by all factions of parliament for a bill that truly reflects what the people wanted. Prime minister Henry Puna praised Iro for his vision, personally acknowledging him in the public gallery of parliament. Puna explained cabinet had been approached by Iro, “one of our pioneers”, who had conceived the idea as a board member of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation. “Together we had a vision to turn our little country into the cleanest and greenest tourism destination in the whole wide world. “And our commitment is the largest in the history by a single country for integrating ocean conservation management from ridge to reef – and reef to ocean,” Puna said. The Prime Minister delivered a stirring speech in support of Marae Moana that Speaker of the House Nikki Rattle described as a “beautiful encounter of the journey of the people of the Cook Islands”. Puna said: “Our people loved the idea. In fact, they loved the idea so much that they wanted the Marine Park to be extended over the entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – an area spanning nearly two million square kilometres. “Our Government wanted to bring reality to the voice of our people.” The bill establishes Marae Moana over the entire EEZ – and gives the Cook Islands marine protected areas around every island where no commercial fishing or mining are permitted. Exclusion zones, recently approved by cabinet in May, extending 50 nautical miles from each and every island – this area is reserved specifically for the enjoyment of the local people of each island. “Socially, economically and spiritually we must all take care of it – and it is imperative that all those that live and exist both within and beyond its boundaries do recognise and respect its sanctity,” the Prime Minister said. “We do not only recognise that the ocean brings us revenue in terms of fishery and tourism and potentially sea bed minerals – it also provides us with clean air, clean water, and clean food to nourish and sustain us.” “So this bill aims to sustain our livelihoods by protecting species and ecosystems as well as our cultural heritage that we inherit and pass on to future generations.” He said the Marine Park will provide the framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets in the ocean, reefs and islands" The name Marae Moana was conceived by a student of Tereora College, Bouchard Solomona, during competitions to develop a name and a logo in 2014. Puna said the name perfectly encapsulated the way Cook Islanders regard and respect the ocean. “We borrowed this idea from our forefathers who considered the entire ocean as sacred and specially recognised it as one ecosystem,” he said.

Category: Marine Park News

Marae Moana Bill Scheduled for Debate

10 July 2017 The Marae Moana Bill is scheduled to be debated in Parliament today. The purpose of the bill is to formally establish Marae Moana over the entire Exclusive Economic Zone of the Cook Islands as well as the lagoons, reefs and territorial seas. As part of the Bill, the 50-nautical mile Marine Protected Areas will be established around each of the islands where no longline, purse seine fishing, or seabed minerals activities are permitted. “We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” says Marae Moana Ambassador, Kevin Iro. “With the leadership of the government and the House of Ariki, a lot of work has been done to ensure the communities on all islands have been informed and consulted about the Marae Moana proposal. “And since then, we have been in discussions with government agencies, the opposition in Parliament, the Koutu Nui, private sector and NGOs about the details of the policy and legislation.” Iro says the Marine Protected Areas around each of the islands are a precautionary measure to protect biodiversity including whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, and seabirds. “This aims to ensure healthier ecosystems and assist with economic gains through activities such as ecotourism.. “They are also a precautionary measure to provide an opportunity for tuna to spawn. “Additionally, they aim to provide local fishermen with an improved chance of catching tuna. “The idea is to bolster economic gains as local fishermen catch more fish for sale, as well as to feed their families.” Iro says Marae Moana, also known as the Cook Islands Marine Park, will help promote the Cook Islands as a “clean and green” tourist destination. “The legislation will provide the framework to implement projects such as Mei te Vai Ki te Vai, the renewable energy project, waste management projects, sustainable fisheries and other environmental initiatives,” says Iro. Cook Islands News

Category: Marine Park News

TIS Welcomes News of 50nm Buffer Zone

24 March 2017 Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) has welcomed Cabinet’s decision to establish a 50 nautical mile exclusion zone around the Cook Islands for the Marae Moana marine park. Cabinet on Tuesday unanimously decided on the size of the buffer zone which excludes foreign commercial fishing and seabed mining. TIS technical director Kelvin Passfield said they were “very pleased” with Cabinet’s decision to extend the exclusion zones for foreign fishing out to 50 nautical miles. He said they have been working with the Marae Moana Establishment Trust, the Aronga Mana and the people of the various islands to get some protection zones in order to provide significant conservation benefits for the Cook Islands. “We believe the 50 mile closure is a good compromise between what many of the people from the Pa Enua have asked for (100 miles) and the preference of the Secretary for Marine Resources for just a 24 mile closure,” Passfield said. “The 50 mile closure should also increase the catches for local fishermen, as the fish which will not be getting caught in the closed zones will be able to migrate freely, including swimming closer to our islands for the local fishermen to catch. “We would also like to acknowledge the Kaumaiti To'u Travel Ariki, and the Aronga Mana from Pukapuka, as well as Jacqui Evans and Kevin Iro from the Marae Moana Establishment Trust, for their tireless efforts in achieving this fantastic result.” Passfield said they were now looking forward to the Parliament sitting and the passing of these decisions into law. He said they were also looking forward to work on mapping out the boundaries correctly so the foreign boats know where they can and cannot fish. Meanwhile Passfield said despite Government’s favourable decision in their bid to conserve the marine resources for Cook Islands need, they would continue their protest against purse seine fishing and other controversial issues. “While the closure is a good thing for marine conservation, and we applaud Cabinet for taking the decision to increase closed zones to 50 miles, our issue with purse seining remains,” he said. “The purse seiners use drifting fish aggregation devices to aggregate the different species of tuna, and this increases the catch of juvenile bigeye tuna, which are overfished. “We will continue our campaign against purse seine fishing using drifting FADs.” by Rashneel Kumar, Cook Islands News
Category: Marine Park News

Marae Moana Bill Makes Progress

3 November 2016 The MARAE Moana Task Force has finished gathering comments on the draft Marae Moana Bill and has submitted them to Crown Law. The bill was drafted based on the recommendations of a legal analysis, feedback from community meetings around the country and input from representatives of agencies and organisations. It was circulated for comment amongst government agencies, non-government organisations and the aronga mana and aims “to protect and conserve the ecological, biodiversity, and heritage values of the Cook Islands marine environment” while allowing sustainable use. The Marae Moana Bill establishes a framework for participatory and integrated decision-making and marine spatial planning. The bill also establishes marine protected areas around islands where there will be no large scale commercial fishing or seabed mineral activity. This is in response to community requests for foreign boats to fish further away from their islands so that gamefish that swim close to islands may be caught by local fishermen. The rest of the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone will be zoned using regulations so that amendments can be made at any time. The Crown Law Office will incorporate the comments and the bill will be submitted to cabinet for final decision-making and then approval.
Category: Marine Park News

Prime Minister Pushes Marine Park Project

Wednesday March 25, 2015 Written by Phillipa Webb Published in Cook Islands News

 

An urgent meeting between the Prime Minister and Heads of Ministries was held on March 25, 2015 to attempt to push forward the Marae Moana marine park project. 

The ministry heads met with Puna, and Marae Moana representatives at the Muri Beach Club Hotel that morning.

Category: Marine Park News

New Premises and Appointments for TIS

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) a new board and committee were elected.  Together with recent staff appointments aligned to the Cook Islands Marine Park,

Category: Marine Park News

Exclusion Zone Set At 50nm

23 March 2017 The Cook Islands is to have a 50 nautical mile exclusion zone around its islands. Cabinet decided unanimously on the size of the buffer zone yesterday. By confirming the 50nm zone the government has maintained its commitment - made three years ago at US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Ocean Conference, to the size of the buffers. They will exclude fishing and seabed mining. A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said: “This decision was made after stakeholders - including Marae Moana consultant Jaquie Evans and Ben Ponia, secretary of Marine Resources, spoke with Cabinet, each presenting their case. “Significantly, Kaumaiti Tou Ariki was also present and addressed Cabinet on behalf of the House of Ariki, outlining their views with regard to our fishing, conservation and our people. “He also presented the views of our people from their various consultations both in Rarotonga and in the outer islands.” Prime minister Henry Puna said: “We have maintained our stance and have considered carefully the implications of this landmark decision. “Although this decision might impact on our longline fishing industry, such an impact is minimal and secondary to the needs of our people for food security and preservation of the ocean surrounding them.” In addition, Puna spoke of the need “to reassure our people with regard to the outpouring of support for 50 nautical miles and to maintain consistency with the commitments we made globally three years ago. “Our commitment to Marae Moana is seen in this decision and we are satisfied this decision is one that upholds our vision for Marae Moana, a sustainable fishing industry for the protection of our environment and our country.” The OPM said though different groups - through the media, had highlighted arguments for and against 24 nautical miles, 50 nautical miles and 100 nautical miles, setting out the pros and the cons of each, it was evident that government was unwavering in the implementation of Marae Moana and its value to the people of the Cook Islands and our environment. “The balance, said Finance minister Mark Brown, was between maintaining a commercially viable fishing industry as well as (ensuring) the long-term viability of our oceans. This decision, he said, was a commitment that would achieve just that. “The 50 nautical mile exclusion zone will be passed into legislation and law, and will underpin this government’s Marae Moana policy. “We acknowledge and thank the good people of the Cook Islands who join with us as we protect our oceans, our fishing industry and continue to create a protected space that will ensure the viability of both for years to come … our Marae Moana.” - RM/OPM
Category: Marine Park News

Marae Moana Policy Finally Finished

3 March 2016 After a year of discussion, the Marae Moana Oceans Policy is now with Prime Minister Henry Puna who will present it to Cabinet.

The policy, which guides the management and use of the Cook Islands marine environment, has been formulated in consultation with the public and other stakeholders.

The final version of the policy was agreed at a stakeholder meeting that ended on February 8.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister’s Office acknowledged receiving the policy, adding Puna will put that into action when he returns from a visit to the northern group where he and other CIP MPs are holding fishery discussions.

In a statement, Marae Moana Marine Park project manager Jacqui Evans said a “Legally Designating Marae Moana,” meeting had also been held last month to examine the pros and cons of closed ocean zones.

The meeting ended after a look at questions relating to the legal designation of Marae Moana.

Guest advisors included Dr Justin Rose, an adjunct senior lecturer at the USP School of Law, who examined the legislative framework.

He was assisted by Jon Day and Darren Cameron, both of whom have decades of experience with the establishment and management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia.

“While there are many differences with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park such as the size of funds available for education and management, there are also many similarities such as the need to ensure multiple groups are involved in the development and review of policies and legislation,” Evans said.

Two further lessons relevant to Marae Moana were the importance of considering the connections across a range of marine habitats from the island lagoons to deep oceanic waters, and the need to consider the cumulative impacts of activities and not just individual pressures in isolation.

“Another useful lesson was that the process to establish a marine park is both time-consuming and complex.”

Bearing in mind the ocean is already stressed by the impacts of climate change and other factors, Evans said the participants recommended that conservation should be the primary objective of Marae Moana.

“Uses such as fishing, mining and tourism can be supported provided they are done in a way that is consistent with the primary objective.” Birdlife International biologists Steve Cranwell and Karen Baird provided advice on what closed oceanic zones mean for seabirds.

The meeting was also attended by government agencies and MPs including Minister of Agriculture Kiriau Turepu, Minister of Finance Mark Brown and MPs Selina Napa and Tama Tuavera.

It was also attended by the National Council of Women, a representative from the Pae Tokerau, the Aronga Mana and Te Ipukarea Society.

Other groups invited included the Cook Islands Fishing Association, the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and Cook Islands Whale Research.” by Rashneel Kumar, Cook Islands News

Category: Marine Park News

Marine Park Research Cruise

The boat arrived in Manuae on Tuesday 30th July, and we did 3 dives that day.  On Wednesday we did 2 more dives in the morning, and spent the afternoon exploring the island.  We found a FAD from a large Purse Seine vessel, the Amalia.