What is a protected area? A protected area or conservation area is a place which is protected from potentially harmful development because of its recognised natural, ecological, or cultural value. There are many types of protected areas which have different levels of protection. Protected areas are either land-based or marine protected areas, the latter must include some area of ocean.
Protected areas are established to protect biodiversity (the variety of life on Earth). This is because they preserve important habitats for plants and animals, as well as protection from hunting and harvesting for threatened or endangered species.
When areas are protected, they allow ecological processes to continue where in other places they would not. For example, a marine protected area including a section of mangroves would act as a fish nursery where these young fish would grow large without allowing the fish to be netted around the mangroves or allowing the mangroves to be cut down, which would result in the destruction of their habitat.
The Samoa meeting was hosted by the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the BIOPAMA project is funded by the European Union. The BIOPAMA meeting focussed on updating Pacific nations on how the project’s second phase will work - its objectives, benefits to countries, expected results and main activities and involvement by countries and organisations.
The meeting sought to identify general information about the BIOPAMA Action Component and identify national and local priorities that could guide decisions for investments through grant making (managed by the IUCN Oceania Regional Office in Fiji).
The meeting also focused on priority needs and opportunities for improving data-gathering, assessment of data and information and capacity development for decision making and effective management and governance of protected areas.
These include engaging stakeholders and partners in how to use the Pacific Islands Protected Area Portal (PIPAP) which can be accessed on https://pipap.sprep.org/. This is basically a database for all information relating to protected areas in the Pacific Islands.
On the PIPAP there is already a large amount of information on protected areas in the Cook Islands, including on Suwarrow National Park, the Takitumu Conservation Area, and many others.
However the PIPAP still needs updating, as the Cook Islands and other Pacific islands have a number of newly-established protected areas which have not been submitted into the PIPAP. These include the Moko’ero Nui Nature Reserve on Atiu which was created in 2016.
Meeting participants were asked to identify which protected areas need updating or correcting on the database, and provided valuable information to make sure the PIPAP is more easy to use and understandable for all people who want to learn about their country’s protected areas.
Protected areas are a great way to protect our biodiversity and nature for our future generations of Cook Islands. Through the new BIOPAMA project, funding will be available to support the creation of more protected areas as well as maintain those we already have.
Technology such as the PIPAP will also be able to allow protected area managers in the Cook Islands to better manage and keep track of our protected areas for the future.