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Cook Islands reaffirms commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water

30 June 2022, Lisbon Portugal, UNOC 2022 - As a large ocean, small island developing state, over 99 percent of the Cook Islands geography is ocean.

Addressing the world community at the second UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal this week, the Cook Islands stressed the international cooperation needed to determine and implement solutions to ensure a healthy ocean.

Given the complex and interconnected nature of the ocean and of the pressures placed on it, the solutions for ocean health are best done in a multitude of ways, and partnerships.

Home to Marae Moana, almost two million square kilometres of an Exclusive Economic Zone committed to a multiple-use marine park, the Cook Islands have worked towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Since the first UN Ocean Conference in 2017, the Cook Islands have achieved set goals and are now propelling forward towards further progress for our ocean health.

Ms Teuru Tiraa-Passfield, of the Cook Islands Delegation, presented the statement on the global stage -

“As a country that does not produce any plastic, the Cook Islands remains extremely concerned about the environmental, social, cultural, and health impacts of plastic pollution in our islands. 

We have therefore joined our Pacific neighbours in endorsing the “Pacific Regional Declaration on the Prevention of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and its Impacts”. 

The Pacific region contributes less than 1.3 per cent of global plastic pollution, and do not produce plastic polymers, and yet the Pacific region is grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts. The Second World Ocean Assessment states that the highest recorded quantity of floating plastics are in the South Pacific subtropical gyre.

Marine debris impacts biodiversity and human health.  The problem is growing – a global review found a 49 percent increase in reports of marine species being entangled in and ingesting marine debris between 1997 and 2015.  A recent study of ingestion of plastic by fish in the Pacific region found plastic ingestion by 97 percent of examined fish species.

“We have also supported initiatives to address plastic pollution in other international fora, including at the International Maritime Organisation. 

There was therefore no hesitation when it came to supporting the UN Environment Assembly resolution to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee for an internationally binding treaty to address plastic pollution, and we call for concerted international effort in this process.”

The theme of the Second UN Ocean Conference is "Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions". 

For the Cook Islands, partnerships have been an integral part of its success towards SDG 14.  As such, the large ocean island state that drives its own sustainable development calls for new and existing partnerships to support ocean action to be scaled up effectively.

“We are committed to building, improving and enhancing our scientific knowledge, and we see this as the key to making responsible evidence-based decisions.   We are encouraged by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and to this end, we invite expressions of interest from external partners to work with us to support marine scientific research in our Marae Moana.”

“The Cook Islands reaffirms our commitment to support the implementation of Goal 14 to ensure the health of our Marae Moana for generations to come.

We call for renewed and strengthened commitments by all at this conference.”

At the UN Ocean Conference in 2017, the Cook Islands announced plans to dedicate EEZ to the protection, conservation, and integrated management of its Marae Moana.

The Marae Moana Act was passed in 2017 with the primary purpose to protect and conserve the ecological, biodiversity, and heritage values of the Cook Islands marine environment.

The Act establishes marine protected areas of 50 nautical miles around each of its 15 islands, where all commercial extractive activities are restricted. These closed zones equate to an area of over 320,000 square km– roughly three times the area of the UNOC2022 host country, Portugal. 

The statement by the Cook Island was made by Ms Teuru Tiraa Passfield of the Cook Islands Delegation on 30 June 2022.

The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022.  The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent, which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga.  Also present and engaged are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

For further information on the UN Ocean Conference 2022, please visit:

UNOC2022, Cook Islands, Marae Moana, SDG14