"Everyone has a role to play," – Cook Islands at the global biodiversity conference

3 December, CBD COP13, Cancun Mexico - The Cook Islands traditional method of ra'ui, local marine reserves that provide a refuge from non-discriminate forms of fishing such as gill nets which help control the levels of harvesting, was shared during the High Level Roundtable discussions of the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13).

Cook Islands Associate Minister of Environment, Mr. Mona Ioane shared the actions undertaken by the island nation to mainstream biodiversity into the fisheries and aquaculture sector, a theme of one of four different High Level Roundtable Discussions that took place today. One of these themes is the integration of biodiversity into cultural and traditional planning of locally managed marine areas.

Cooks 1Associate Minister Mona Ioane at the High Level Roundtable of the CBD COP13

"Ra'ui is our way to protect the harvest of our fisheries through cyclic fishing bans in certain coastal areas at different times. The placing and lifting of the ban after certain periods is shared through the village. These ra'ui areas are managed by communities for food security and it also contributes to habitat protection and biodiversity conservation," said Mr Ioane.

"Marine reserves have also been established under regulations to protect commercial opportunities. For example in Aitutaki, one of the islands of the Cook Islands, their bonefish sports fishery has designated areas where gill netting is banned to protect the adult bonefish that aggregate in these locations to breed."

According to the CBD, in 2010, inland and marine capture fisheries and aquaculture together produced 158 million tonnes of fish worldwide, of which more than 80 percent was utilised as food for people. This makes up more than 16 percent of all animal protein consumed globally.

The Cook Islands has undertaken a number of different steps, to ensure the protection of biodiversity in its fisheries sector. Te Kaveinga Nui, the National Sustainable Development Plan 2016 – 2020 focusses on green economic growth taking into account the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environment.

The Cook Islands has also declared its 2.0 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the Marae Moana Marine Park with legislation being drafted that will place marine biodiversity as a priority intervention. The Cook Islands has a lagoon environmental monitoring programme in place, focussing on water quality, ecology and pathogens, providing an early warning system against environmental degradation.

Cooks 2Cook Islands lagoon environmental monitoring programme currently in place.  Photo: D. McFadzien

"The Cook Islands continues to face unique problems and issues that directly affect our marine biodiversity such as documenting our marine biodiversity before it is lost or become vulnerable to extinction as a result of fisheries development. Having updated policies and legislation that will ensure biodiversity protection and conservation will address this," stated Associate Minister Ioane.

"As such, the need for continuous support and assistance at the national and regional level is very much required in the Cook Islands to minimise the impact on our ecosystems and livelihoods. Everyone has a role to play. Building partnerships at the national, regional and international levels is key to mainstreaming the preservation of biodiversity for future generations."

The High Level Roundtable discussions were held in Cancun on 2 and 3 December, 2016. This is followed by the CBD COP13 from 4 – 17 December.

The Cook Islands are parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity along with Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. - #PacificProtectedAreas

For more on the CBD COP13, please visit: http://cop13.mx/en/
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