Two of the world’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 “contribution not only to our own wellbeing but also to humanity’s wellbeing.”
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 “play its part in the sustainable management of our oceans.”
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 world’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, “Nearly every indicator shows that the world’s oceans are in decline.” He added that these efforts will be “of enormous benefit to all of mankind.”
Image CC licensed by eutrophication & hypoxia, photo credit: Gemma Longman. Rarotonga, Cook Islands