Conservation International Statement on Cook Islands’ Legislation of Marae Moana, the World’s Largest Marine Park


Conservation International (CI) welcomes the Cook Islands government’s decision to legally establish Marae Moana. Five years of close consultation between the government, partners and local communities has resulted in Marae Moana, becoming the world’s largest multiple-use marine park — a remarkable stride towards the protection of their oceans which provide food security and livelihoods to the people of Cook Islands.

The Parliament of the Cook Islands passed the Marae Moana Act 2017 on July 12, 2017 formally establishes the Marine Park which spans both the northern and southern Cook Islands and maritime jurisdiction, an area of 1.9 million square kilometers — the entire marine domain of the Cook Islands.

“Marae Moana is a unique, large scale Marine Protected Area that ensures protection of the marine environment whist allowing for the sustainable development aspirations of Cook Islanders. By doing so, it empowers traditional knowledge and practice as a key basis for management. In short, Marae Moana is an unparalleled approach. Now that the Marae Moana Act 2017 is legislated, we will continue to forge ahead, hand in hand with our Cook Island Partners to support this globally significant commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape​,” said David Emmett, Senior Vice President of Conservation International’s Asia-Pacific Field Division.

CI has supported the development of a Cook Islands Marine Park since the idea’s inception in 2011 as part of CI’s engagement in the Pacific Oceanscape, an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders. The Marae Moana is the Cook Islands’ commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape declared in 2012. CI continues to support government, traditional leaders and the Marae MoanaInformation Hub, which raises public awareness and conducts consultation for the Marine Park.

Moving forward, Conservation International will continue to work with Marae Moana coordinators, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the House of Ariki (the council of high chiefs) to gain information on customary knowledge and traditional practices used in marine management and conservation, known as Ra’ui — informing management plans to ensure the sustainability of the Cook Islands’ oceans.

“Mankind only has one earth, one atmosphere, and one global ocean. One last chance to save it all for future generations,” said Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Henry Puna, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 14 Conference in New York last month.

The Act, which builds upon the launch of the Marine Park in 2012 and five years of consultation between government, communities, the private sector and non-profits, also extends the ban on foreign commercial fishing fleets in all 15 islands in the Exclusive Economic Zone from 12 nautical miles to 50 nautical miles, providing further protection for about 17,000 people who depend upon these waters for food, livelihoods and traditional uses.