As part of its strategy to implement the recently established Cook Islands Marine Park – currently the largest MPA in the world – the Cook Islands’ government recently accepted the invitation to formally join Big Ocean: A Network of World’s Large-Scale Marine Managed Areas.
Upon acceptance of the network’s invitation to become a member site Prime Minster Henry Puna said, “We were honored to join the family of large scale marine managed areas and contribute to the well-being of not only our peoples, but also of humanity. We look forward to actively participating in Big Ocean.”
Sized at 1.065 million km2 (411,000 mi2), the Cook Islands Marine Park encompasses the entire southern half of the nation’s waters and was established for integrated ocean conservation and management. According to Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Puna, “the goal is to have the marine park’s management framework create a balance between economic growth and conserving core biodiversity. We recognize that peer-learning through Big Ocean will be very helpful in achieving success.
Big Ocean is a network of managers and partners of existing and proposed large-scale marine managed areas. The collective aim is to improve the effectiveness of management efforts, to serve as a peer learning resource and support system, and to build the professional standards of practice for this emerging genre of marine conservation.
Big Ocean also aims to share outcomes and lessons learned in order to increase understanding of the unique contributions of large-scale marine protection and how management of the ocean at such scales is changing the game of ocean governance. Collectively, Big Ocean member sites encompass 3.2 million km2 of ocean—twice the size of the Gulf of Mexico.