HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 650: 23 January 2013

Cook Islands establishes shark sanctuary

In parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Minister for Marine resources, Teina Bishop rose to announce that earlier that morning, Cabinet had decided to bring in regulations to protect the shark in Cook Islands waters.
The Minster went on to say it was a historic day, a world event of note that the country had joined other Pacific nations like Samoa and Tahiti Nui in establishing a shark sanctuary.
The following is an extract from his speech to the House.
Kia Orana Madam Speaker
It is with great pleasure that I rise to advise the House…and the people of the Cook Islands that this morning Cabinet has decided to bring in regulations under the Marine Resources Act 2005 that will ban the targeting, retention or possession of sharks or any parts of a shark, on board any commercial vessel throughout the waters of the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.
In formulating these regulations there has been a very lengthy period of consultation through public meetings with community groups, island councils and a wide range of organizations led by Stephen Lyon and Jessica Cramp from the Cook Islands-based Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative.
Letters of support have been received from:
• House of Ariki and Koutu Nui
• The Island Councils of Aitutaki, Mauke, Palmerston, Mangaia, Manihiki and Mitiaro
• The Mayor of Tongareva
• The Leader of the Opposition the Honorable Wilkie Rassmussen
• Te Ipukarea Society
• National Environment Service
• National Heritage Trust
• Cook Islands Voyaging Society
• Aitutaki Game Fishing Club
• Cook Islands Game Fishing Club
• Aitutaki Conservation Trust
• Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council
• Ocean Fresh Limited
• Aitutaki Fisheries Limited
• Viking Spirit
• Cook Islands Whale Research
• Cook Islands Marine Park Steering Committee
• Cook Islands Rotary
There was also a public petition signe4d by several hundred people who also supported the concept of shark protection.
And then there were school children.
Many of them wrote letters of support for a shark sanctuary directly to the Prime Minister.
Some of these letters came from children living on Rarotonga.
Other letters of support came from children on our sister islands both in the north and in the south.
Throughout this week all the schools in the Cook Islands are holding their Prize Giving day.
Prizes are being given out to children of all ages, at all schools, right across the country.
But there is one “Prize” the Government, Members of Parliament and all the adult people of the Cook Islands would like to give to each and every child…
And that is the “Prize of a shark sanctuary here in the Cook Islands.”
I know this is something all the children in our country want to see happen.
The establishment of a Shark Sanctuary in the Cook Islands will have no negative economic impact on the Cook Islands because we do not have a history or any commercial interest in shark fishing.
As a result of these regulations we now join other countries including American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, Tokelau, Palau, Maldives, Bahamas, Honduras, Guam, Hawaii and Tahiti Nui (French Polynesia) who have also declared their territorial waters as being a shark sanctuary.
The adoption of these regulations therefore creates a shark sanctuary in the Cook Islands in which we have put in place the most strongest regulations possible to deter any form of shark exploitation within the waters of the Cook Islands.
The introduction of these Shark Sanctuary Regulations means that the people of the Cook Islands can feel very proud that our nation is now a global leader in environment protection in terms of our Marine Resources and shows quite clearly that we are managing our fisheries in a very managed and responsible way.
Therefore Madam Speaker…on behalf of Cabinet and all the members of this house from both the Governmetn and the opposition…
And on behalf of all the people of the Cook Islands…as of today being the 12th of the 12th of the 12th…it is my greatest pleasure to declare that the waters of our Exclusive Economic Zone here in the Cook Islands is now a fully protected “shark sanctuary”.
Thank you Madam Speaker.

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