Held at the New Hope Hall in Parekura, the launch was attended by senior government officials as well as deputy New Zealand high commissioner Samantha Beckett and Michel Bermudes of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The five-year strategy was formulated while keeping in mind the long-term sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture resources, which is a major goal of the government.
“Aquaculture in particular is an important income-earning activity and food source for our communities,” said MMR in a statement.
“This means that the Cook Islands, as custodian of this extremely important natural resource, has a mandatory obligation to manage these resources sustainably and to implement preventive management, conservation and protective measures.
“Although aquaculture trials were implemented back in the 1950s, the aquaculture sector in the Cook Islands is still in its infancy.
“To achieve sustainable development of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, making sure that our aquatic stocks are healthy and free from aquatic animal diseases and aquatic plant pests is a priority. It is also necessary for us to protect and conserve the highly diverse and pristine natural aquatic environment of the Cook Islands.”
Having good aquatic biosecurity measures is important to maintaining healthy animals, reducing the risk of developing diseases in aquatic stocks, harvesting high-quality products, and ensuring good yields, said MMR.
As part of the development of the strategy, MMR took part in a sub-regional training workshop on aquatic biosecurity planning with the SPC in Noumea, New Caledonia, in April last year.
This was followed up by a National Stakeholder Consultation in July last year, to agree on the components, structure and content of the strategy.
“The development of the National Aquatic Strategy was not an easy task, especially when there are various agencies involved and key stakeholders,” said MMR’s acting secretary George Matutu.
“However, it is by working together that we were able to develop this plan that we now need to implement together. Biosecurity is the responsibility of all of us.”
Matutu thanked a number of key government officials and agencies alongside the New Zealand government and SPC for their kind support in implementing this strategy.
In launching the strategy, he said the work on implementing aquatic biosecurity in the Cook Islands was only just starting.
“I am pleased to note that this strategy is the hard work of the team and I am looking forward to binding associations between key agencies in implementation of this strategy.
“As mentioned in the strategy, the establishment of strong inter-agency collaboration is a clear and positive component of the strategy.”
The national strategy will serve as a roadmap for setting national standards for:
1) Controlling possible biological risks in aquatic environments, such as the risk of pathogens and invasive species;
2) Regulating imports and exports of live aquatic organisms and their products;
3) Improving disease management of aquatic organisms, and
4) Building national capacities and infrastructures on aquatic biosecurity