The Cook Islands, halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, established the largest multi-use marine park and reserve in the world. This makes Cook Islands a leader in marine conservation and it’s a giant step towards becoming the greenest destination in the world.

It is a momentous occasion for a small nation of 19,000 people and 15 islands in the heart of the Pacific. Tthe “Marae Moana” (Ocean Sanctuary) Bill allows for the protection of an ocean space rich in marine biodiversity, preserving threatened species such as rare seabirds, manta rays, beaked whales, and several shark species. The Bill commits to protecting an ocean space roughly the size of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Idaho and Washington combined.

The bill also forbids commercial activity within 50 nautical miles from each of the country’s islands, an area that covers more than seven times the size of the United Kingdom.

Cook Islands, New Zealand

Cook Islands. Photo: Islas para naufragar via Flickr

Taking Initiative

The Cook Islands are now a model for other places in the world to follow suit in protecting oceanic resources. The Prime Minister of Cook Islands realizes how critical it is to mend the damage already done to our oceans:

“We all must now take care of our ocean,” Prime Minister Henry Puna said, “[and] it is imperative that those who live and exist both within and beyond our ocean’s boundaries do recognize and respect its sanctity. As we passed the Marae Moana Bill into law, we as a country assured our commitment to integrated ocean management globally and made history as this is the largest commitment by a single country from ‘ridge to reef, and from reef to ocean.’”

Coral Gardens, Cook Islands, New Zealand

Coral Gardens, Cook Islands. Photo: Ron Caswell via Flickr

Since the Marae Moana initiative was born more than five years ago, when a board member of Cook Islands Tourism suggested planning for the future as the the cleanest and greenest destination in the world.

Etu Moana, Cook Islands, New Zealand

Etu Moana, Cook Islands. Photo: Robert Young via Flickr

A Lasting Legacy

The Marae Moana ocean preservation initiative will be coordinated by a central team and group council, and has been supported financially by international agencies.

This bill reconnects the Cook Islands with its sustainable heritage, and sets an example for the rest of the world to follow in its footsteps. It’s now one of the greenest travel destinations on Earth. Let’s get everyone else to take the same steps!

Cook Islands, New Zealand

Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Photo: Robert Linsdell via Flickr

Source: Cook Islands

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