Jacqueline Evans has been working to protect the marine environment in the Cook Islands for over 20 years including protecting the coral reef from land-based sources of pollution and from over-fishing.
The Cook Islands Marine Park is one of an increasing number of large marine protected areas in the Pacific. In August 2012, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna, declared what was then the world’s largest marine park over the southern half of the country’s exclusive economic zone. The declaration covers 1.065 million square kilometres –an area more than twice the size of Papua New Guinea. The park will contribute to conserving the region’s marine biodiversity, boosting local economic growth and preserving the health of the ocean globally. “We are privileged in that we have a Prime Minister who envisions a greener future in the Cook Islands. We just need to help him to make this vision a reality” says Jacqueline.
Jacqueline represents Te Ipukarea Society on the Cook Islands Marine Park steering committee. As part of this role, she is working with government agencies to develop a marine park policy which details exactly how the marine park will function in relation to existing governance structures and existing resource management measures. The objective of this policy will be to balance the use of the natural resources with the conservation of biodiversity.
“Our steering committee is made up of people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse values. We have people on the committee from a range of government agencies and we have traditional chiefs and NGO representatives on the steering committee. This has provided an opportunity to come together and learn about each stakeholder’s perspective on how they see the marine park developing” added Jacqueline.
On Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Jacqueline assisted Rarotongan traditional leaders with the re-establishment of traditional marine protected areas after more than 40 years of their absence. Her work has helped to build knowledge of key elements of traditional marine protected area management in modern society.
The main priority for Jacqueline at Te Ipukarea Society is to complete the development of the Cook Islands Marine Park management policy. There is already political support for the overall marine park concept throughout all the Cook Islands, including the support of traditional leaders and both sides of parliament. The next step is to consult with government agencies that will be directly affected by the marine park. To date, three of the key government agencies have been able to envision how their mandate can fit within the marine park framework. One key agency still needs to be consulted on how they envision the marine park and their role within it.
The establishment of the Cook Islands Marine Park will contribute to the BIOPAMA objectives as it will increase the understanding and recognition of policy and decision-makers across the Pacific, and the world, on the role that protected areas can play in sustainable development and maintaining vital ecosystem services.
Jacqueline is Te Ipukarea Society’s Project Manager for the Cook Islands Marine Park, and is a science graduate of the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and a geography graduate of the East West Center in Honolulu.