Opinion: Pacific nations lead sea-change in ocean conservation

Story highlights

  • Pacific Islands Forum saw new commitments to ocean protection
  • Cook Islands created marine park the size of Egypt
  • New Caledonia protected its portion of the Coral Sea
  • 16 Pacific island nations manage 10% of world's oceans
Last week, while most of the western world was focused on the approaching presidential election in the United States and a potentially disastrous hurricane making landfall in New Orleans, a group of seemingly small nations gathered on the Island of Rarotonga and changed the world.
At the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands, 16 countries that when combined make up a tiny fraction of the world's land, came together and made some of the largest ocean commitments in history towards the sustainable management of their oceans, which conversely make up an immense 10% of the world's ocean area.
In the last day of proceedings, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an observer at the forum, pledged to deepen the U.S. relationship in the region by strengthening its conservation commitment between the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM).
Just before that news broke; the government of New Caledonia announced their intention to establish a 540,500 square mile marine protected area in their portion of the Coral Sea. But the most immediate and groundbreaking announcement came from the host country, the Cook Islands that unveiled a brand new marine park. At 386,000 square miles, it is equal in size to Egypt, is half of the nation's territory, and the largest marine park in the world.
Dr. Greg Stone
Such a marine park is even more incredible when you consider the relative scale of the commitment; the Cook Islands have a population of only 15,000 people, but an exclusive economic zone half the size of India. Imagine any other country setting aside a full half of their sovereign territory for conservation, recovery