The new Cook Islands Marine Park was announced by the Cook Islands Prime Minister at the opening of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting last month.
The Marine Park comprises the southern half of our Exclusive Economic Zone from 15 degrees south and encompasses one atoll and eight islands with fringing coral reefs. It also includes over 1 million km2 of deep ocean with a number of seamounts that may be significant in terms of biodiversity and/or abundance of marine life. The legal designation of the Marine Park will follow island consultations, a legal analysis of existing legislation and a legislative process. “The announcement is just the beginning of a long process to determine the zonation of activities in the Marine Park,” says Jacqui Evans of Te Ipukarea Society. “Where can certain activities occur in the area? Where will some activities be prohibited? How do we make marine protection effective?” says Jacqui. A Marine Park Steering Committee, established and chaired by the Office of the Prime Minister, comprises government agencies, traditional leaders and Te Ipukarea Society. The committee will assist with the legal designation of the Marine Park and will help to address issues surrounding its management.The Marine Park Steering Committee are currently putting together a national work plan and budget to guide what needs to be done over the next three years to make the Marine Park effective.