Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Cook Islands Marine Park joins Big Ocean

(HONOLULU, HI)––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.

Big Ocean is a professional network of the world’s largest marine protected areas, represented by on-the-ground managers and their partner organizations. The collective aim is to improve the effectiveness of large-scale marine management globally by sharing information, expertise and resources.

“Big Ocean was founded to help establish best management practices for this rapidly growing genre of large-scale marine conservation through peer-learning,” said ‘Aulani Wilhelm, the early architect of Big Ocean and NOAA manager for Papahānaumokuākea in Hawai'i. “Each member site is in a different stage of development, offering a wide-range of experiences and expertise. When shared across sites to solve management problems, the impact our sites can have individually and collectively increases. We are already seeing the results, particularly in the area of research and planning.”

Upon acceptance of the network’s invitation to become a member site Prime Minster 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.”

Announced at the 2012 Pacific Leaders Forum, the Cook Islands Marine Park was one in a series of significant commitments made by Pacific nations to protect vast areas of the world's oceans. Included was a pledge by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to form the Phoenix Ocean Arc, which would represent the world's largest trans-boundary protected area collaboration in the Phoenix Islands between the United States and Kiribati governments.

“All of these large-scale announcements are game-changers for the oceans,” said Conservation International’s Pacific Marine Director Sue Taei, a partner of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and advisor to the Cook Islands Marine Park. “And just as the Phoenix Ocean Arc is the basis for cooperation between one of the world’s largest economies and one of the smallest economies, Big Ocean could potentially provide the interface between large-and-small scale MPAs. The collective lessons learned could help how MPAs are conceived and implemented.”

Big Ocean member sites include: the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Australia), the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (U.S.A), the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Republic of Kiribati), the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (U.S.A.), the British Indian Ocean Territory MPA (United Kingdom) the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park (Chile), and now the Cook Islands Marine Park (Cook Islands).

Together, these sites encompass 3.2 million km2 of ocean––twice the size of the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information about Big Ocean: http://www.bigoceanmanagers.org/