HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Cook Islanders - Our Most Valuable Marine Resource

It goes without saying that our people are our most important resource and the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) is adopting that mantra with a new generation of budding Cook Island marine scientists.
The Cook Islands is a Large Ocean State but must deal with the reality of having one of the smallest and fastest declining populations in the world. This has spurred the MMR to invest heavily in staff development. It is quite possible that per capita these public servants will generate more Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than any other sector of the nation.
MMR has a roster of sixty personnel located in Rarotonga, nine Sister Islands and Samoa. Engaging their services requires “thinking out of the box” and they are employed either as public servants, project contractors, on retainer or on a user pay basis.
Like all government departments, managing an expanding work programs with a limited personnel budget creates a challenge to take young staff on-board for mentoring and succession.
Despite this, a cadre of young Cook Island recruits are being recruited and distributed amongst MMR work programs. All intend to work a “gap” year before pursuing further qualifications.
Since graduating from TereoraCollege ,Roland Maru and Anika Hunter have joined the offshore fisheries division’s databank. Both will input the fishing catch log sheets into SPC’s tuna database as well as correlating the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) tracks, port sampling and observer records.
Alice Mitchell, a SCUBA diver since she was 13 years old, returns to her home island ofAitutaki and will work as a giant clam hatchery technician at the Aitutaki Marine Research Station.
James Kora returned from schooling in New Zealand and completed his SCUBA training in anticipation of his posting as a pearl biologist on Manihiki atoll, which he left aged 11.
Returning to second year of marine science at Auckland Universityis James Mata Dudley. This sports enthusiast when not collecting gold medals for Aitutaki or tries for the Tupapa Panthers has been accumulating work experience at the Aitutaki station for the past year.
Also returning to Auckland University (on a Cook Islands Scholarship) is TeuruPassfeild.During her university break she assisted with a successful trochus harvest on Aitutaki. This was under the advice of her father, Kelvin Passfeild, a senior MMR staffer and IUCN representative.
The thread of graduation extends through the organisation with recent graduates such as Georgia Langdon monitoring the pearl farms on Manihiki and Angelie Robinson keeping a watchful eye on the water quality of Muri lagoon.
Senior Advisers stand-in to lend MMR a hand. For example,Mike Mitchell the former Solicitor General, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and New Zealand High Commissioner takes up the reins overseas engaging with distant water fishing nations (DWFNs) on fisheries negotiations and treaties.
Such is the quality of MMR staff development that spillage into the region is the common exit strategy. Former Marine Secretary, Julian Dashwood headed the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities (SPC) fisheries program in Noumea for a number of years. Following in his tracks is another former Secretary, Ian Bertram. And across the equator at Pohnpei is former MMR officer, Dr Lara Manarangi-Trott, taking up a senior position at the Tuna Commission.
They do return from the region to share their acquired experiences. The current Marine Secretary, Ben Ponia spent ten years with SPC’s marine division in Noumea travelling and working extensively throughout its 26 Pacific member countries.Colin Brown, one of the architects of the surveillance programs at the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in Honiara is anMMR Adviser and developing an Information Management System that will set a new bar for the region. MMR feelers are now out for Ms Barbara Hanchard who has returned after sixteen years with the FFA as an executive officer and managing large Global Environment Fund (GEF) projects.
Cook Islanders are truly a valuable marine resource because Cook Islanders will be the key to unlocking its wealth.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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