Marae Moana – The Cook Islands Marine Park
Established: July 2017
Location: Situated between 9 degrees and 22 degrees south latitude
Size: 1.065 million km2 or 411,000 mi2
In August 2012, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna formally proposed the establishment of a 1,065,000 square kilometer multiple use marine park that will “provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests … with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets, in the ocean, reefs and islands.” The Cook Islands commitment has been the largest in history by a single country for integrated ocean conservation and management and on 12 July 2018 a momentous piece of legislation was passed, the Marae Moana Act, which legally established the LSMPA.
Marae Moana is currently the largest commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape, an innovative initiative led by the Pacific Island nations, including New Zealand, to foster integrated marine conservation and sustainable oceans management across approximately 40 million sq km of ocean – over seven percent of the Earth’s surface. Similar to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, Marae Moana will contain a variety of zones with different levels of protection, including area where all fishing will be banned, and buffer areas where tourism and carefully monitored fishing will be allowed.
The area includes remote atolls and high volcanic islands surrounded by fringing reefs and unspoiled fauna associated with underwater mountains. It also hosts rich Pacific marine biodiversity, including rare seabirds, blue whales, manta rays and several shark species, a number of which are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.