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6 new marine reserves around the world

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Marae Moana, Cook Islands

1.9 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean will now be protected by the new Marae Moana marine sanctuary. The announcement, made in July 2017, comes after almost five years of campaigning, chiefly lead by environmentalist and rugby player Kevin Iro. The size of the area means that it now surpasses Ross Sea in Antarctica as the largest marine park in the world.

Iro, who’s wife is native to the Cook Islands, wanted to ensure that the oceans were protected for his children and future communities. “I saw what was happening to the lagoons and reefs and really wanted to protect them for my kids”, he said to news agency AFP.

Pollution and overfishing had previously bleached corals and caused a dip in marine populations. The creation of Marae Moana is intended to allow the area to significantly replenish its marine life by ensuring that sustainable fishing is carried out in the reserve. There will also be designated no fishing zones up to 50 nautical miles from the coastline of each of the nation’s scattered islands. Though the Cook Islands are happy to welcome maritime tourism, they have also placed restrictions on anchoring and boat speed in certain areas to safeguard fragile coral reefs and sea turtles, which live in the surrounding waters. Various species of dolphins, whales and sharks will be just some of the inhabitants of the sanctuary that will now benefit from marine conservation. Any mining activities will only take place after discussions with both government and the public can conclude that a mining project would not have a significant impact on the suggested area.

Both government officials and native tribal chieftains worked together to realise their dream of protecting the ocean, which holds a place of importance for the citizens of the Cook Islands. With just a fraction of their nation consisting of land, the ocean is their biggest and most valuable resource.

"We not only recognise that the ocean brings us revenue in terms of fishery and tourism and potentially sea bed minerals,” said Iro. “It also provides us with clean air, clean water, and clean food to nourish and sustain us”.

Words by Olivia Michel. Picture courtesy of shutterstock.com / ChameleonsEye

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