Organised across nine themes, the conference aimed to address challenges in maritime security, unsustainable mineral extraction, poorly planned and unregulated coastal development, unsustainable human activities around and in bodies of water, lack of protection from the negative impacts of climate change, and biodiversity loss that compromises human health and food security caused by pollution, invasive species, and ocean acidification.
Led by Environment minister Robert Tapaitau, the delegation shared the Cook Islands’ experiences under each theme, showing where the country had achieved significant success as well as points that had proven more challenging.
“We are a small economy in the middle of the South Pacific and although we see ourselves as a large Ocean State, connected by the ocean, we also recognise the vulnerabilities of our isolation and the need to future-proof and build our economic diversity and resilience” said Tapaitau in his plenary address.
“In 2017 the Cook Islands passed the Marae Moana Act, establishing a multi-purpose marine protected area over its entire marine jurisdiction of 1.9 million square kilometres.
“Through implementation of Marae Moana, we aim to protect and conserve the ecological, biodiversity and heritage values of the Cook Islands marine environment, establish an integrated and inclusive decision-making and management framework, and allow multi use, zoned areas for economic, educational, research, recreation and cultural purposes."
“Alongside this, the Cook Islands is forging ahead with our Renewable Energy Roadmap through investments in solar across our northern and southern group islands, bringing our nation on track to achieving 100 per cent renewable energy generation by 2020. We have also declared our entire EEZ as a whale and shark sanctuary and are striving to integrate this within our Marae Moana framework.”
“Ultimately, to maximise benefits of a Blue Economy while also supporting the resilience of communities and the environment, we must invest in programmes that empower and educate our communities to take stewardship of their natural environment and actively engage in its management.
“For the Cook Islands, Marae Moana and our Renewable Energy Roadmaps are symbols of the Sustainable Blue Economy in action.”
The conference closed on Wednesday.