Jun 7, 2017

Large scale Marine Protected Areas: Lessons shared by the Pacific

written by Tina Baumgartner
in category Uncategorized

6 June 2017, UN Ocean Conference, New York – The Cook Islands hosted event, “Going to Scale in the Ocean: from large scale Marine Protected Areas to whole domain management: ridge to reef to ocean” at the UN Ocean Conference was a resounding success today.

The special event heard the journeys undertaken by the Cook Islands, Kiribati, New Caledonia and Palau, as they worked to establish large scale marine protected areas.

Home of Te Marae Moana, just under 2 million square kilometres of a Marine Park, the Cook Islands showcased global leadership in committing its full domain at the special event.

It was announced the Marae Moana Bill will be tabled in Parliament next week, followed by the establishment of a Marae Moana Coordination Office. The legislation and policy was established after nation-wide consultation consisting of five workshops and over 30 meetings. A Marae Moana Action Plan is under development and will include input from all relevant government agencies, traditional leaders and non-government agencies. These will be reviewed and evaluated by a technical advisory group and a new Marae Moana Council. Agencies will also be required to align their policies and legislation with the overall principles of Marae Moana.

“As ocean voyagers, we have always treated the ocean with respect from time immemorial. This is an integral part of our culture: to have the deepest respect and regard for nature which would in turn ensure it continues to provide for the needs of the generations to come,” said Prime Minister Hon. Henry Puna.

Hon. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands

“Our commitment is the largest in history by a single country for integrated ocean conservation and management from ridge to reef and from reef to ocean.”

Also shared were the stories of other Pacific islands in establishing large scale Marine Protected Areas, including Kiribati, New Caledonia, and Palau.

Kiribati established the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, being the first in the Pacific island region at this scale, there was no one for the island nation to learn from. The first phase took ten years, with the real success of PIPA being due to the political will behind this initiative.

“It is now listed as a World Heritage Site and is globally important for seabirds,” said Hon. Alexander Teabo, Minister of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development of Kiribati.

Hon. Alexander Teabo, Minister of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development of Kiribati

“We are proud to be making a global contribution to our planet in this area. Our Ocean defines who we are and is part of our DNA.”

Also to highlight their experience was the Government of New Caledonia who has since signed a sister-site agreement with the Cook Islands on their large-scale marine protected areas.

The New Caledonian Coral Sea MPA encompasses the country’s entire 1.4 million hectare Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ, more than twice the size of France, which includes the world’s largest lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage site, established in 2008. This MPA is the first contribution to the Pacific Oceanscape by a Melanesian country or a French overseas territory.

Anne-Claire Goarant of New Caledonia

“We have found that it is not the creation of this protected area which is the most important, it is more the way the governance has evolved around this area,” said Ms Anne-Claire Goarant of New Caledonia.

“This has been a great journey.”

Palau also spoke of their experiences in establishing the Palau National Marine Sanctuary which comes after a history of conservation actions starting with the traditional method known as ‘bul’. In 1994 Palau passed the Marine Protection Act which identified and protected marine species such as the hawksbill turtle, in 2001 the harvesting of Dugong was prohibited, then in 2002 the Protected Area Network was created. This was followed by the 2004 Declaration of the Micronesia Challenge committing Palau, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine and 20% of their forests. This then led to the establishment of a Shark Sanctuary in 2012, and now the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.

H.E Kyota Hersey, Ambassador from Palau to the United States

“The success of the Micronesia Challenge initiated discussions of a large MPA, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, it was created after two years of preliminary work at both the international and domestic level,” said H.E Kyota Hersey Ambassador from Palau to the United States.

“The MPA will be expensive and local resources not sufficient to cover the bill. We are still working to find partners who are willing to believe in our plan and to put their money where the benefit is.”

The event held on 6 June, 2017 at the UN Ocean Conference in New York ended with comments on Marine Protected Areas from the Marquesas Islands, Tokelau, Easter Islands and Hawaii.

The “Going to Scale in the Ocean: from large scale Marine Protected Areas to whole domain management: ridge to reef to ocean” was led by the Cook Islands with the following partners – Kiribati, Palau, New Caledonia (France), House of Ariki, Cook Islands, Conservation International, Big Ocean Network, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat/Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) Global Island Partnership (GLISPA); IUCN; University of Auckland; Moccasin Lake Foundation and the Global Conservation Fund.

Published at SPREP News, 7 June 2017