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