Cook Islands creates large Pacific Ocean reserve: Marae Moana

The Cook Islands has passed legislation to create one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the world, Marae Moana.



The area of 1.9 million square kilometres has been established for the purpose of protecting and conserving the ecological, biodiversity and heritage values of the Cook Islands marine environment.


Environmentalist and former Kiwi rugby league international Kevin Iro, who first proposed the idea more than five years ago, said it was a landmark achievement that would help preserve the ocean for future generations.


“It’s a historic time, particularly because everyone supported it, including our traditional leaders who spearheaded the whole thing,” Iro told AFP.


The Cook Islands has a population of just 10,000 and its 15 islands have a combined landmass of 236sq km.


However being in such an isolated position in the Pacific, about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii with no near neighbours, means it has a huge maritime territory.


Cook Islanders had an affinity with the ocean and viewed it as sacred but overfishing and pollution had damaged the marine ¬environment.


He said the marine reserve, known as Marae Moana, would give the environment a chance to heal, allowing the islanders to protect their legacy.


“When I moved back here (from New Zealand) about 16 years ago I saw what was happening to the lagoons and reefs and really wanted to protect them for my kids,” he said. “I want them to have the same experience I did as a boy.”


The idea is not to ban commercial fishing or mineral exploration outright, but to ensure it is carried out in a sustainable manner.