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It’s in our DNA to conserve the ocean: Puna

Sunday August 31, 2014 Written by Release/MW Published in Environment

Prime Minister Henry Puna has urged Pacific island states to look to their culture to find the motivation to preserve and conserve their ocean resources.

Speaking at a side-event of the United Nations Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) that was organised by SPREP on Friday evening, Prime Minister Puna said island states should declare ‘no-take’ zones in their tuna rich waters.
"For us in the Cook Islands, conservation of the ocean is part of our DNA," said Puna at the SPREP organised event.
"We were born into the ocean, and we will die in the ocean. Our lives are so inter-connected with the sea.
"If you look closely and look within yourself and at your own community, you will be able to find that DNA too. Once you connect with that, the rest should be easy."
Puna made these comments two days before world leaders began their weeklong conference on sustainable development in the Pacific island nation of Samoa and small island developing states have been inspired to follow the lead of countries like the Cook Islands, Kiribati and Palau in turning most if not a large part of their oceans marine reserves.
This development comes as the region's premier environmental organisation – the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) signed a partnership with the National Geographic Society and the Waitt Foundation to promote marine parks in the Pacific.
The Cook Islands is being held up as a leader in ocean conservation after proposing 1.1 million square kilometres a marine protected area dubbed the Marae Moana, creating one of the world's largest 'no take zones'.
Puna said what while the park for now is limited to the Cooks' southern waters the plan in the medium term will be to extend this Marae Moana to waters in the northern Cooks.
"Marae are areas that have been designated by tribes across eastern Polynesia as sacred places. Areas where the tribe congregate to establish their collective identity, offer thanks to their gods and deliberate matters of importance for the survival of the tribe.
"Calling our marine park – Te Marae Moana is more than an analogy to our belief systems but reflects the essence of the marine park to our very livelihoods. It is a sacred area.
“As such the Marae Moana will provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests such as tourism, fishing, deep sea mining with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets in our ocean, reefs and islands."
Asked by Australian scientist and climate change negotiator for the Tuvalu Government Dr Ian Fry to explain how deep sea mining would fit into such a concept of marine parks, Prime Minister Puna averted answering the question by simply replying that partnership was key.
SPREP's Director General Mr. David Sheppard said the partnership between Waitt Foundation and National Geographic Society will promote marine resource conservation and associated sustainable economic development of SIDS in the Pacific.  - MW/release

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