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Cook Islands will make a significant contribution to the future of the global oceans. (Photo: www.cook-islands.gov.ck/YouTube/FIS)

Govt commits to establishing biggest marine park in the world

COOK ISLANDS
Thursday, August 30, 2012, 15:40 (GMT + 9)

The Southern Cook Islands Government has committed to a 1 million sqkm marine park -- almost twice the size of France and the largest single marine park in the world. At a major international meeting in Abu Dhabi this week, Prime Minister Henry Puna challenged the international community to support developing countries, such as the Cook Islands, which have vowed to protect the oceans. 

The marine park will be "the largest area in history by a single country for integrated ocean conservation and management," he said, Channel News Asia reports.

"The marine park will provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests such as tourism, fishing and deep sea mining with conserving core biodiversity in the ocean," Puna remarked.

Marea Hatziolos, the World Bank's senior coastal and marine specialist, said the park would include a main area where all fishing would be banned, plus special zones where tourism and carefully monitored fishing would be allowed to let commercially valuable species such as tuna recover.

Puna’s challenge prompted Jack Dangermond, founder and president of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), to pledge his support to build a database for the Cook Islands Marine Park that will use Seasketch, the world’s newest Geographic Information System (GIS) tool for marine spatial planning.

ESRI, in partnership with University of California, Santa Barbara, then agreed to assign two senior scientists to gather all available information on the marine park into a single digital platform, and to train Cook Islands people to operate it. The project will begin in early 2013 and will take eight months.

“To work with ESRI in the development of initiatives that will aid in better management of our ocean and a more secure future for all Cook Islands people is a very exciting development that underlines the global significance of our marine park declaration,” said the Prime Minister.

Dangermond noted the importance of developing recommendations about using data sharing as a significant step along the path towards sustainability.

“ESRI is proud to be able to make a commitment to the protection of a very special part of the planet, and to provide the technical support through our most recent innovation, ArcGIS Online, that will help to make the Cook Island Government’s vision a reality,” he stated.

Kevin Iro of the Cook Islands Marine Park Steering Committee commented that the range of expertise and technological innovation that was on display at the summit was remarkable. 

“It has become even clearer to me that not only is the Cook Islands on the right track in developing our marine park for the benefit of our own future generations, but also as a significant contribution to the future of the global oceans,” Iro said.

There is still a lot of work left to be done to fulfill the promise of the marine park, but the Cook Islands now have some innovative partners and are clearly positioned as a global leader in marine conservation and a champion of island states, Puna concluded.

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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