Cooks PM Committed To Marine Park Plan

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Cooks communities want to extend fishing ban area

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 30, 2015) – Prime Minister Henry Puna has reaffirmed his commitment for the proposed Marae Moana marine park. This week he told the leaders at the 71st session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand about the ambitious plan.

During a side event themed ‘Blue Economy’, Puna told the leaders they could not underestimate the significance of the ocean to their very survival into the future, and the role it played in island economies and their sustainable development.

This is why the Cook Islands had declared and was currently working on the establishment and legal designation of all of its 2.2 million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone as the Marae Moana – the Cook Islands Marine Park, he said. Marae Moana was Cook Islands’ way of ensuring a ‘blue’ economy, he said.

"Marae Moana will provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests such as tourism, fishing, deep sea mining with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets in our ocean, reefs and islands."

There were calls from Cook Islands communities to extend the existing zone where commercial fishing was banned from the current 12 nautical miles to 50 miles and to enshrine the new restriction in proposed legislation, Puna said. Political support and backing of traditional leaders and the communities across the country would be important in implementing these commitments.

"I am proud that the Cook Islands is taking positive action. But these local actions will not have the truly desired outcome without regional and global action on managing, conserving and protecting our ocean.

"You have my guarantee that the Cook Islands will continue to call for global collective action on our ocean and the importance of the blue economy going forward."

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