Two of the worldâ€™s tiniest nations have announced a plan to turn 2.5 million square kilometers of the south Pacific Ocean into a marine protected area. Once completed, this will be the world’s largest marine park areas.
The Cook Islands, consisting of about 20,000 people over 15 islands, will create a park taking up about 1.1 million square kilometers, a space bigger than the size of France and Germany. According to prime minister Henry Puna, this is a â€œcontribution not only to our own wellbeing but also to humanityâ€™s wellbeing.â€
The park will have several allowable human uses including fishing, tourism, and possibly deep-sea mineral extraction, but only if they can all be done in a sustainable manner.
New Caledonia, a fellow small island, and former French territory, has also announced plans to create a marine protected area over 1.4 million square kilometers of ocean. Francois Bockel, the head of regional development, told the Guardian that the goal is for the island to â€œplay its part in the sustainable management of our oceans.â€
These Pacific island nations are committed to sustainable ocean management for the huge areas of ocean within their economic zones. This region houses 60% of the worldâ€™s tuna stocks, and contains the largest pristine marine ecosystems on the planet. Their preservation efforts are known as the Pacific Oceanscape, a concept designed by the tiny islands of Kiribati in 2008.
According to Michael Donoghue of Conservation International, â€œNearly every indicator shows that the worldâ€™s oceans are in decline.â€ He added that these efforts will be â€œof enormous benefit to all of mankind.â€
Image CC licensed by eutrophication & hypoxia, photo credit: Gemma Longman. Rarotonga, Cook Islands