“It’s incredible how we’ve treated the ocean over the years, thinking we could never do any harm to it,” says Kevin Iro, reflecting on his recent trip to Indonesia to attend the Our Ocean conference.
At the conference—a major event attended by scientists, leaders, and advocates from all over the world—several corporations committed to ceasing production of single-use plastics by 2025. Among them were The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo.
Iro attended the conference in his capacity as an ambassador for Marae Moana, the Cook Islands’ marine park. Legislated last year, the park has yet to be zoned and regulated beyond its ‘exclusion zones’, which are areas extending 50 nautical miles from the shore of every island in which no large-scale commercial fishing or seabed mining is permitted.
In light of the emphasis on plastics at Our Ocean, Iro was proud of the work being done at home to ban plastic straws and bags.
He says it’s important to remember Marae Moana is about more than just fisheries and mining; it’s also about encouraging a change in the way both locals and tourists are thinking about the environment and interacting with it.
“It’s about awareness of our impact,” he says.
The Our Ocean conference put Iro in touch with people from some major non-profit organisations who expressed interest in supporting the operations of Marae Moana.
“It was good to meet some of the partners we’ve been dealing with over the years and to hear them say they’re still interested in supporting us,” he said. “It’s always good to let everyone know you’re still there and active.”
There was no discussion about seabed minerals activity, which indicates the newness of the territory into which the Cook Islands is preparing to enter.